The Creators: Roman and Williams

Roman and Williams (Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch) photographed by Nigel Parry for BlackBook.

When you walk into a room that Roman and Williams has designed, you will feel something. You will discern texture, notice scale, and you may even feel warm or cool. “There’s an amateurism we love to maintain so we don’t end up too professional or too polished.… It’s a lot of emotion, a lot of passion,” says Stephen Alesch, half of the design duo (and husband to his counterpart, Robin Standefer). To them that’s more important than staying true to one particular aesthetic. It’s why visitors will develop an attachment to the glittering, Champagne-filled Boom Boom Room, and the casually bohemian Ace Hotel lobby, worlds apart and brimming with particulars. One is where you dance till dawn looking out at the city lights, and the other is where you take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and get your work done. Same goes for the spaces they’ve created at the Viceroy, Royalton, and Highline hotels, and restaurants like John Dory Oyster Bar and The Dutch.

“Our starting point is love: loving an object, loving a space, thinking of an experience we want to have,” Standefer says. It’s not just about what’s new or in fashion; the two have a humility that allows them to comb over memories and the familiar, searching for aesthetic details and ideas that will make you experience emotions. It’s just going to be a different emotion depending on where you are. Guests at the Freehand in Miami, Chicago, and soon Los Angeles will pick up more on the handcrafted, homey sparseness of the hostel/hotels, while the rarified Chicago Athletic Association, a historic landmark and soon-to-be-hotel, will attract a ritzier crowd. Each project inhabits its proper space. Filled with all the right particulars, they become fully developed worlds of their own.


This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook on stands now.

The Creators: Patrik Sandberg

Patrik Sandberg photographed by Mark Seliger for BlackBook magazine

The unconsidered, the ill-considered, the castaway, the stepped upon: Journalist Patrik Sandberg wants to communicate the worth of whatever’s on the bottom of your shoe, especially if you find it revolting. In the usually self-congratulatory fashion world, new ideas are often the cause of unease and upturned noses. That thrills Sandberg. Even better is when Internet rage wafts in from outside the industry, for instance, homophobic comments referencing the latest Hood By Air collection, designed by Sandberg’s good friend Shayne Oliver. “That is just the greatest trophy you can have,” Sandberg says.

Hood By Air is just one of many once unrecognized talents he has championed over the years. In 2007, Sandberg–who is now an editor at V magazine–helped to found DIS, a digital platform for highlighting and sometimes inventing cultural trends born of the Internet. Then later he worked on early iterations of VFILES, an online social site that allows for the sharing and collecting–and selling–of new ideas in fashion. Owned by the visionary Julie Anne Quay, it is now central to connecting celebrities like Rihanna and Ke$ha with underground (and online) designers and trends.

It’s all part of the post-Internet fashion moment (“post” in the sense of concurrent with, not after). But the untoward revs up Sandberg, too. He mentions profiling Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three (who Sandberg believes to be innocent), in the same breath as altering the cultural iconography of a cover star like Ke$ha. “I’ll see something in a certain way,” he says, “and if no one else understands, then I feel like I have to make them understand.”

This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook on stands now.