Pre- Fashion Week Events Popping Up, Spotlight on StyleLikeU.Com

Fashion Week is sort of like the groundhog that never sees its shadow for clubland. It portends a quick end to the cold winter. January, except for the three-day weekend that celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Day, is usually a financial bust for clubs, bars, and restaurants. Football playoffs help some of the venues and indeed defines revenue for the sports bars, but in general the post-Christmas cash crunch and New Years recovery spells trouble. Tourists, a huge part of our hospitality economy, do not come here during our frigid winters. A great many New Yorkers, often referred to as Snow Birds, head south to enjoy Miami, the Carribean, and other warm weather locales where "the season" is in full swing. Fashion Week carries joints through the cruel short month of February. Valentine’s Day provides a spending spike and then it’s on to the spring with all its sexy good times.

New clubs and spots are opening while others are sprucing up. Some are just getting their game together, hoping for a new beginning. Tomorrow night, two joints I designed are throwing events that they hope will expose them to an expanded audience. Open House was done as a favor for a small budget. The proprietors (and therefore me) seem ecstatic. It really is a comfortable space that has its old crowd dressing up and a new crowd coming in. The redux has attracted the fashion-centric StyleLikeU to their doors. They will be hosting a Pre-Fashion Week soirèe for StyleLikeU featuring hot DJs Louie XIV and Justin Dean Thomas. They will also be serving my boy Arty’s industry-defining tequila, Alacran. I caught up with StyleLikeU director of PR/marketing Jordan Middendorf and asked her about the event.
What is StyleLikeU?
StyleLikeU is the first video-based platform to give an intimate and "behind the scenes" view into an authentic subculture of tastemakers who express themselves freely through both their style and their lifestyles. With video interviews and photographs, StyleLikeU gives a diverse and democratic voice to those who inspire trends and whose unique style is empowering to others.
What separates SLU from the other zillion lifestyle publications/websites?
The depth and intimacy of the interviews, combined with the diversity of the sort of people we feature. It is  about their clothes, but it’s more about the person themselves and their story.
What is the statement you guys are making for Fashion Week?
We are bringing a sense of inclusion and community back into Fashion Week. The site is all about openness to different people, and the party celebrates that and all sides of the fashion industry itself.
How did you get involved in StyleLikeU?
I moved to New York in the summer of 2010 and was interviewing at all these different fashion houses for jobs where I would be paid to get coffee. So instead I took an unpaid internship at SLU where I knew I could actually make a difference and learn in the day-to-day. After around four months, we received our first round of funding and our entire "executive team", which until this point was executive in name only, were hired on. It was pretty thrilling and taught me, and I think everyone else that was a part of it at that time, that good things come with sacrifice.
Another event at another place I designed is set to redefine and therefore relaunch it. The former APL space was fraught with some bad luck and bad decisions mostly by people no longer associated with the space. The press has been very positive of the relaunch as The Orchard House. Ironically, in a NYTimes mention, they described the dècor as "touched by whimsy." Whimsy was one of the names I wanted to call it. I thought APL was a horrific name and said so loudly here. With new chef, ex-Jean Georges‘ Matt Redington the menu is more in line with a L.E.S. fabulous restaurant. The old guard seemed to be catering to an Upper East Side set that never came. The new guard kept most of the design intact but added some graffiti to spice things up. I hate the graffiti but understand the need to move forward. With Richie Romero and Chris Willard involved with the marketing, I expect great things. I have sampled the food and found it truly wonderful.
I am also pleased with a fantastic non-alcoholic section of the drink menu. I don’t drink. I am not an alcoholic or religious fanatic. Avid readers remember that I actually do imbibe two or three times a year… whenever I have sex. I love the un-boozed Pimms cocktail they used to make special for me but is now on the menu. Food is served until 3am and prices have become completely affordable. Tomorrow, February 8, I will walk from that pre-Fashion Week gala at Open House to Orchard House for a preview launch event. The party will feature Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, some passed hors d’oevres and music by Social Diva and Ody Roc. They’re calling the place The Orch and there is a history to that. Marketing maven Chris Willard explained:
"I grew up 2 blocks away from the restaurant, my whole family still lives down there. In the late 70’s early 80’s Orchard Street was the place to go in Manhattan for the latest in hip hop fashion.. Sheepskin coats, leather bombers, Lee Jeans, Le Tigre shirts, the flyest kicks, Cazel glasses, etc etc.. We would call it The Orch.. “Yooo, I copped these fly new Nike Air Force 1’s on The Orch today”..
They have a real nice website.

Buckler Soirèe, Sally Shan on the Winter Film Awards, and A Night Ending with Bereket’s Lamb Platter

I made the rounds in the Lower East Side/Nolita last night and, as usual, lingered too long at some places and therefore never got to other places. After the great Buckler soirèe at The Elsinore, I stopped at The Orchard House which was having a relaunch or preview of the new reincarnation. Scores of people I haven’t seen in a minute were making a scene. It was fun. I introduced Hotel Chantelle’s Kyle O’Brien whom I am DJing for tonight to nightlife empress Sally Shan. Sally and I used to hang, but life often pulls people who want to hang down different paths. She has made a name for herself, going from a sub-promoter drawing a dozen or so people, to throwing events for hundreds. She was with a wonderful restauranteur from San Juan, Steven Yiu. He owns the East restaurants there. We became fast friends and I promised to visit him on my next visit to the island. I told him about a super-secret, totally amazing sandwhich shop on the wrong side of the tracks. Guys like me seek out such places where time and the changing world haven’t yet corrupted. I directed him to this small spot where in-the-know locals of all classes wait in line for a half hour to try a Jerezma or seven potencias sandwhich. The place can be found behind  a Marshalls parking lot in Santurce. Steve affirmed that the hood is, well… quite hoody… and he has never heard of it but is heading there straight off. I told him to travel heavy. It’s worth it.

Sally is working on the events for the Winter Film Awards. She studied acting and directing at the very prestigious Central Academy of Drama in Beijing .She told me, "I’m really happy to organize the Winter Film Awards events. Being from the film industry, I know how much passion everyone puts into their work. Our after-parties will be able to truly celebrate and congratulate the filmmakers and actors for their accomplishments in film this year. The inaugural Winter Film Awards Festival celebrates cinema and performing arts in New York, February 9-12. The First Annual Winter Film Awards will air on American primetime television, featuring the winners for best studio film, indie film, and emerging performing artist."
Here is the press release about the festival:
The Winter Film Awards (WFA) is a celebration of cinema and the performing arts. The 2012 Winter Film Awards Festival will run from February 9-12 with a series of award ceremonies and special events.The star-studded launch event will take place in New York City on Thursday, February 9, 2012. The awards show will air on American Primetime Television, a new IPTV multi-platform network, distributed by Omniverse TV reaching over 45 million households.
“We are delighted to showcase the best of the best in film and performing arts at our festival and to have our award winners featured on APTV as part of its dynamic original programming”, says WFA President George Isaacs.”
As a precursor to the Oscars, the 2012 Winter Film Awards Festival will launch with the Winter Film Awards Major Studio and Latin Film Awards gala, which celebrates the outstanding film achievements of 2011, as recognized by the WFA Board of Governors. The Major Studio and Latin Film Awards will be presented on Thursday, February 9th, 2012, in NYC and will be nationally televised on APTV. On Friday, February 10th, 2012 awards will be presented for excellence in independent film to filmmakers who deliver outstanding work, but have not yet received a distribution deal. Award winners will receive national exposure on APTV. February 11th and 12th will round out the festival with the WFA Film Festival and Performing Arts showcase.
As part of the Competitions section of the festival, the performing arts showcase will be a forum where individuals from all areas of performing arts will compete for awards.  WFA is proud to announce its partnership with Cringe Humor for the comedy awards and live stand up competition.
The WFA Film festival is an IMDB-qualifying film festival.  WFA Call for Entries is officially open and filmmakers can submit their work here
Sally will be throwing the following events. Contact her on the world wide web for more info.
Fri, Feb., 10th starts 10-11PM at Hudson Terrace (w/ a one hour open bar); Sat, Feb., 11th starts 9-10PM at Sky Room (w/ one hour open bar); Sun, Feb., 12th starts 9-11PM at 1OAK (Awards Ceremony).
On the way home, I walked trhrough the wondrous snow with the intent to stop by Open House for a hello to Stylelikeu’s Jordan Middendorf at her pre-Fashion Week gala. Alas, as I passed Bereket, that wondrous joint of lamb kebob and late-night encounters, I was waved to by DJ Reach, with his billion dollar smile and my man Ash. I went inside and we talked for an hour, joined by a dozen or so denizens of the deep night who popped in to say hey or grab a bite. We shot the breeze and other stuff until it was too late to go anywhere but to bed in BBurg. My night’s agenda was a dozen or so "must attend" parties, but as it wound up, I just hit a few parties but reconnected with a dozen or so old friends and made a couple of new ones. I felt warm and fuzzy as I ate my delicious lamb and rice platter with Lulu and Buster. Amanda is back from a short trip today. I couldn’t sleep in her absence so I finished the first season of Heroes as the morning light told me last night was done and I could move forward with the purpose of today.

StyleLikeU: Interview Today, Party Tonight

Tonight, Vanity Fair will host a party at Bumble and Bumble for the StyleLikeU book. Forget about attending—the list has been closed for eons. But I used to be Steve Lewis, so they invited me. No worries, I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow — or go to 1OAK for the afterparty. I caught up with StyeLikeU’s Dani Baum and asked her all about it.

What is StyeLikeU and how was it started? StyleLikeU is an online magazine dedicated to highlighting incredible individuals who possess a unique personal style. It is not so much about the clothes on the man but more about the man in the clothes. It was started roughly 3 years ago by the mother/daughter team Elisa Goodkind & Lily Mandelbaum. Elisa was a stylist. She was in the business for over 25 years. I would never want to put words in her mouth, but at a point she became frustrated with an overall lack of creativity and collaboration. At the same time, her daughter Lily admits that she doesn’t like fashion so much, but has almost “a borderline obsession” with people who express themselves freely through their clothing. Lily was particularly inspired by some of the people that were around her as she was growing up. It was just her shear curiosity about why these people dress the way they dress that sparked her and Elisa to start StyleLikeU. They grabbed the family video camera and began entering peoples homes. Three years later we have over 450 “in-closet” interviews archived on our site.

How has it evolved since its inception and how did the book come about? StyleLikeU has evolved a lot since the inception. If you go back to the very first posts, which I love to do, there is a lot less detail. There are less pictures, less quotes—less everything. But it’s really interesting to watch all of the posts in order from the beginning, because when you get to about the 10th one, you really see them starting to shape into what they are now. The questions dig much deeper, and the people inside of the clothes really start to be revealed. We just relaunched the site last Monday. We now have a completely new design, and whereas before we only posted our in-closet interviews, now we are featuring tons of new, original content. I should probably also mention that we got new cameras, Canon 7D’s to be exact. Apparently you can shoot a feature film on those things. The book came about because powerHouse Books approached Elisa and Lily about it. Lily knew that she wanted the book to contain really strong, dynamic images, and of course her beloved quotes.

How did Vanity Fair get involved with the event? What does that mean, and what are the lucky few in attendance going to see? Vanity Fair getting involved is actually a great story. When Elisa was styling, she was on a job and there was an intern there who thought that she was really nice and cool. Fast forward ten or more years: that intern now works at Vanity Fair. They remembered her! When they heard that StyleLikeU was coming out with a book, they proposed the idea to Vanity Fair to host the party. When Vanity Fair asked us if we wanted to team up with them, of course we said yes—how could anyone say no to Vanity Fair? They have been great to us and we all can’t wait for tonight. The event means a lot for the celebration of StyleLikeU’s first book. There are over 275 individuals featured inside of it, so it’s a large accomplishment. Lily took most of the photos and had to reshoot 60 of the muses in just 3 months, so this is particularly exciting for her. The best thing about StyleLikeU parties is, hands down, the people who attend. In my opinion, we feature the most interesting people. I die and cry just watching one video at a time on the website—imagine being in one room with all of them! It’s really a sight to be seen. The energy is incomparable to any other room or party that you will ever be at. Old/young rich/poor fat/skinny black, white, or purple—all kinds of people with a soulful connection to clothing and humanity.

What is your job? I wear a lot of hats, as we all do. We have a really great team and all of our jobs overlap in a way, but mainly I am the director of events and scouting. It all started when Elisa interviewed me to be on StyleLikeU. I pretty much just fell in love with her, the website, and all of the people on the website. I called her up one day and said, “Elisa, we have to get all of these people in one room. This community can not just live on the internet! I want to bring it into a physical environment.” That is how I became the director of events, basically because I became obsessed with wanting all the Muses on the site to be together at one time. I am actually an actor but I couldn’t resist. I feel that what we are doing here is so important. Essentially, we are archiving our culture as we know it—think of what StyleLikeU will be in 50, or even 5 years! What an incredible resource.

In regards to the scouting, I scour the city, events, the sidewalks for people that I feel would be great for the site. I get really passionate about it too. If I see someone, or want someone for the site, I just go for it. I’ll chase someone down the street if that’s what it calls for. I’ll call you, I’ll email you, I’ll send you a smoke signal if I have to. I love the people that I love and I make it my mission to get them on the site.

What’s next for the brand? To go global! Most of our features have been done in NY, LA, London, and we have some from Italy, and Chicago. The next step is travel! We want to go everywhere and we will be soon.

You said you just relaunched the website—tell me a bit about your new content. We love our Twisted Classic feature which is where you take 1 item and twist it 6 ways. It’s a really great feature because it shows people how creative you can be with just one item. How far it can go and how many ways you can twist it? It shows you that you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of clothes. I also love the SLU additions, which is where we interview people on what they are “addicted” to. It’s really interesting, emotional, and psychological. It shows the emotional connection we have to our things—but not in a superficial way. In the first addiction, we interviewed a girl who said she couldn’t live without having her long hair—that she has nightmares about someone coming and cutting it off. That is something I totally relate too, I think most girls who have long hair do. The Addictions show that our things are not just things, but tools that help us express who we are.

If there was one thing that you wanted people to know or take from StyleLikeU, what would you want that to be? I would want you to be empowered by it. StyleLikeU isn’t here to tell you what to do or how do dress, we only want to show you what is possible. Elisa and Lily have set out to erase the boxes, and I really believe that we will. I think we have a capability to save a life. We live in NY, so we can get jaded, and we can forget how easy we have it here, but let’s not forget that on the scale of things, New York is one of the most, if not the most, accepting place in the world. But imagine how much our site could help a young, gay boy in the middle of America who has no one to relate to. Who thinks that, because he is “different,” he is a freak. All of a sudden he discovers StyleLikeU and he now has 450 friends who will help him get through, and make him realize the beauty in his differences. Just the other day a 17-year old boy from Texas emailed me for advice. He told me how much he loves the site, and that it has inspired him to make the move to New York where he know he will find the type of people that he is seeking to be around. I emailed him back saying that he should come by the office when he gets here. That’s what I want people to get from StyleLikeU. That we are here, that this is real, and that most importantly, we are doing everything in our power to uncover the subculture that has been covered by the mass culture. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

A Look Inside StyleLikeU, Fashion’s Most Voyeuristic Web Site

For Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, the mother-daughter team behind the addictive style blog StyleLikeU, a peek into your closet can reveal more than just your sartorial leanings. Since its launch in 2008, SLU has been documenting the relationship between people and their clothes through video interviews with an eclectic group of women and men, spanning all ages, races, and tastes. Their intimate video interviews have won them a large cult- following, a book deal with Powerhouse—it’s releasing a SLU coffee table book in March—and even a pilot for a reality show. Unlike the static street style snapshots on other style blogs, SLU is all about the stories behind the clothes.

While the focus may start off with what’s hanging in their closets, the conversation always expands beyond hemlines and labels to include a thread of topics like sexuality, politics, assimilation, and literature.

“The site gives a platform to all these people who have amazing things to say and have a deep connection to their style. It’s about individuality and the connection between clothes, life and who you are, your soul,” says Mandelbaum, who’s currently attending NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a focus on African studies and film. Explains Goodkind, a former celebrity stylist and fashion editor at Glamour and Self magazines,“the point of SLU is to empower and inspire everyone. It’s not about showing off what they have but more about them in the clothes. Back when I was working in fashion, it was closely linked to art. Now styling is all about advertisers. I came to feel like the system was broken and I wanted out.”

Despite having grown up in the industry, Mandelbaum never wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps. While personal style has always been her passion, fashion proved to be an awkward fit. “When I was growing up, I tried skinny jeans because that’s what the magazines said was in, but that never worked for my body type. I never felt liberated from following trends until I started being inspired to think for myself, thanks to the people we’ve shot,” reveals Mandelbaum. “They are more empowering than anything I’ve read in fashion magazines.” While the site strays from highlighting the ubiquitous fashion trendsetters we’re accustomed to seeing online, SLU does feature some familiar faces: Byrdie Bell, RZA, Lori Goldstein, Becka Diamond, Lauren Ezersky, and Karen Robinovitz make up some of their muses.

In 2008, while Mandelbaum was attending USC and Goodkind traveled from NY to visit, they began shooting random videos of their cool friends’ closets in LA. They had no clue what those videos would take them, just that they were disillusioned with the fashion industry. “We knew we were shooting them for some abstract idea, but we had no real plan,” recalls Mandelbaum, who taught herself how to edit the videos. Their initial lack of knowledge is what made the site unique. The sometimes-shaky camera brought a cinema verite quality that personalized the experience. Now, even with the growth of the site, the ladies are committed to their original style. “We’ve debated a lot about whether we should get a crew, but we always go back to, Will it make the subjects act less natural?” says Mandelbaum. image

“First and foremost, it’s a conversation, and it has to be captivating and unexpected,” adds Goodkind, who says that she has to coax their more timid subjects into opening up. With years of styling under her belt, Elisa is well-equipped at dealing with different characters. “I remember Bette Midler sitting on sink afraid to come out of the bathroom to shoot a cover.” Or there was the time at SLU, when she went to interview artist Terence Koh, and was met with a laundry list of would-be hurdles. He only had ten minutes for the interview which usually lasts two hours. He had to go to the dentist and was not speaking that day. “I’m like, what am I going to do? I just went for it, and he wrote his answers down on paper for the camera, and it brought this whole new layer to the video.” Once they connected, a few minutes turned into an hour, and Koh even wanted Goodkind to spend the whole day with him. “It was one of our best interviews,” she says.

Former muse Dani Baum was so enamored with Goodkind and the interview process, that she stayed in touch and parlayed her appearance a staff position as Director of Events for the site. “The beauty about the interviews is Elisa and Lily don’t really direct it. The muses can take the interview in any direction they choose. It’s anthropology, we are archiving our culture. It’s an incredible resource. Think about what it’s going to be like in 50 years to look back,” says Baum.

Another subject that went on to collaborate with SLU is Jeffrey Williams, the winner of Bravo’s The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection Season 2. His video was shot two years before his appearance on the reality show. Shortly after appearing on SLU, Williams was behind the camera shooting his friends in Milan—like Givenchy muse Lea T—for the site. “What sets SLU apart is how close they get to know their subjects,” says Williams. “Even if you don’t agree with their style, you get to meet them in a way through their videos, pictures, and quotes. A lot of blogs lose that intimacy. It’s usually a quick click, and off the photographer goes. I will say there’s something mysterious about SLU’s approach.”

“One of the reasons SLU has been a success is because Lily brings it down to earth. I’ll go a little more avant-garde, more to extreme, and she’s more relatable,” explains Goodkind. “Where we differ is that I will spend every last penny on Rick Owens, but she loves five dollar vintage dresses.” Their contrasting personalities go beyond their respective closets. Mandelbaum is the rational one (“I take notes, I follow up”) and Goodkind is, according to her daughter, “impractical”.

What started out as a personal project, has evolved into a movement. With a new redesign to come, a slew of new features, and brand new muses, SLU shows no sign of slowing down their mission to explore the meaning of style. “In the future, I am excited for the day a high school girl from the Midwest is on the site next to M.I.A. or Chloe Sevigny,” says Mandelbaum. “I want to send out a message that anyone can feel a soulful connection to their clothing.”