Inside the CFDA After Party with Victor Cruz, Gigi Hadid, Jhene Aiko and More

Jenna Lyons, Maxwell Osborne, Prabal Gurung, and Dao Yi Chow at the CFDA After Party. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

January Jones, Janelle Monae, Zackary Quinto, Bella Hadid, Jemima Kirke (and the Fat Jew) showed up to celebrate the exclusive CFDA After Party co hosted by Refinery29 at the Top of the Standard.

After the CFDA Awards it’s the after party — and supper — where winners and stars celebrated fashion’s finest.

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Rachel Roy and Britney Snow. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Cynthia Rowley and Harley Viera Newton. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Diane Von Furstenberg. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Janelle Monae and Legendary Damon. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Jhene Aiko, Prabal Gurung, and January Jones. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Jenna Lyons. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Jenna Lyons, Maxwell Osborne, Prabal Gurung, Dao Yi Chow. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Tom Van Dorpe, Miles McMillan, Zackary Quinto, Harley Viera-Newton, Richard Chai and Gigi Hadid. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Victor Cruz with Ovadia & Sons. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

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Gigi Hadid (and Bella Hadid). Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Esteban Cortazar and  Hanne Gaby Odiele. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Jemima Kirke and Zackary Quinto. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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June Ambrose. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Mickey Drexler, Karlie Kloss and Casey Neistat. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Instagram’s Kevin Systrom and The Fat Jew. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Daria Strokous and Natasha Poly. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Maxwell Osborne and Misha Nonoo. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Jason Wu and Nadja Swarovski. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Maxwell Osborne and Binx Walton. Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com

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Joan Smalls and Victor Cruz. Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com

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Karen Elson, Tabitha Simmons and Jessica Hart. Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com

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Taraji P. Henson and Vanessa Hudgens. Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com

New Nightlife Trends Emerge at 13th Annual Bar & Restaurant Show

The 13th Annual Bar & Restaurant Show will hit the Jacob K. Javits Center in NYC on June 26th and 27th. Operators today can’t pigeon-hole themselves into concepts like "I’m a nightclub operator" or "I’m a restaurateur.” Today’s market place often demands more than the usual revenue streams. Club guys basically sell air and booze, and restaurateurs throw in food. Money from before-hours or late bar sales may keep a place afloat or help it suddenly thrive. More than ever, nightclub operators recognize the need for a food component/kitchen since it helps the venue maximize corporate catering revenues and provides early revenue streams. Look around town and see the pairing of the restaurant with the lounge as the norm. Trade shows give hospitality managers the latest info that can change red ink to black. I asked Steve Wesler- CEO and producer of The Bar & Restaurant Show for On-Premise – to tell us all about it.

What will make this 13th annual show a lucky bet?
The lucky bet is that I guarantee attendees will leave with more information and knowledge then when they arrived. After years of hearing from On-Premise Food and Beverage Professionals’ owners and operators complain that they are overwhelmed, with no time to attend Las Vegas trade events and no one to help them develop better tools to succeed, it became obvious to me that this is the right approach for the industry; keep it local, keep the educational series relevant and simple, bring in new and hot products and services that can only be seen at our show, and make the show floor fun and user-friendly.

What type of innovations will visitors see and be able to bring back to their bar or club?
Social media and how the competition is using it is the latest innovation that has developed with the acceptance of the smartphone. How do you create an app that will increase traffic and not cost a fortune? They will be able to compare different approaches and products so they can make an educated choice among the various new apps available at the show. New digital signage, quick printing for advertising, social media awareness, and POS systems will all be highlighted through product displays as well as through our seminars.

Tell me about the liquor components to the show.
There are a few components when it comes to spirits and wines. Cachaca from Brazil, new whiskey brands, spirits directed toward women, acceptance of kosher wines for everyone, as well as the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, that takes place during the show. This Competition is produced by Anthony Dias Blue, and hundreds of new wines and spirits are being judged for medals that these manufacturers can use for promotion and advertising.  This is where so many new brands come before they hit the street.

Who is showcasing their products and who typically attends?
Brand manufacturers, distributors, APP developers, POS, craft spirits and beers, NY wines, kosher wines, furniture, bar games, mixers, music, lighting, signage, ATMs. The people that attend are owners and operators of bars and restaurants, beverage and food directors, distributors, importers, casino staff, caterers, bartenders, chefs and their staffs.

Nightlife is constantly evolving. What are some of the innovations or trends now commonly used in the industry that were hawked in the last 13 years?
One of our sponsors is the Hero Campaign, which promotes having a designated driver. They promote this through the bars and restaurants to make sure they don’t over pour. This is a national trend which is being an absolute trend throughout the industry.

Other trends include more computerization through POS, and inventory control systems that help multi-unit establishment control theft and keep their employees honest.

One of our seminars is The New York Cocktail Scene Trends, moderated by Mike Ginley of Next Level marketing. The panel includes representatives from Zubrowka Vodka, Pisco Porton, Ultimate Vodka, and a mixologist  from the Boom Boom Room. These guys are on the front line of what is happening in NYC and throughout the US and world.

Age verification is much more sophisticated than it used to be. Systems now can identify phony licenses and IDs quickly.

What are people in the industry NOT doing now that they used to do?
Smoking, doing drugs on site, putting drunks out on the street. Managers of these establishments are more aware of the liability that is present everyday in their establishment. Fire liability is a constant issue if bands and performers use smoke and fire. Insurance will not protect licensees if drugs are found on the premise and if you over pour to your patrons. There is also much better age verification now, as compared to everyone years ago having a phony ID.

What makes your spirits competition unique?
It all goes back to who the judges are; Anthony Dias Blue of Blue Lifestyle, is the editor of The Tasting Panel and the executive director of the San Francisco Int’l Spirits and Wine Competition. He heads our competition.  The judges include VPs, directors, sommeliers, journalists, and presidents from such places as Corton,Junoon, Landmarc Tribeca, Bourgeois Pig, Gin Palace, and Huckleberry Bar.

Are mocktails a real trend? Have bars promoted and seen an increase in serving these to sober patrons, designated drivers, or families?  What’s the audience for mocktails?
One of the hardest things to do when you go out with friends and family is to be a teetotaler. Our Mocktail Competition is unique and the first of its kind. It allows customers to feel like they are drinking but without the side effects of alcohol. Is it trend?  According to the Hero Campaign, designated drivers are looking for more than soda and fruit juice. The Mocktail Competition, sponsored by Ocean Spray and one2one.com, has created many new recipes that are unique and quite tasty. The winner can walk away with a $1,000 prize; 2nd place:$750, and 3rd Place:$250. The judges rate the cocktails on taste, appearance, originality, aroma, and overall impression. Participants have six minutes to make four drinks.

Why New York? What makes it the right place to hold this show?
There are more establishments with a liquor license within 100 miles of NYC than any place on earth. And where else can you see the best theatre, museums, a wide range of hotels, great restaurants and bars, visit Little Italy or Soho, see sports, sightsee, and more.  New York City is the entertainment capital of the world and that is why we are here.

Saying Good Night to 2011

 

2011 rushes into history taking some notable strangers, a few friends, and some cherished concepts with it. I can’t complain about the way it treated me because it seemed to have treated a whole world of people worse. The world seems harder and more dangerous and less forgiving than in years past. Every minor conflict that we were worried about seems to have been worth the worry. The news is rarely good news and we seem to be accepting mediocrity as a nation. A recent trip to Virginia took me past town after town of similar malls and cookie cutter architecture. My New Year’s resolution is simply to still give a damn.

Nightlife has become more of a means to escape for most. There are still wonderfully creative and ambitious people pushing the envelope — celebrating creativity, but a solid decade of reality TV has unfortunately exposed us to our reality. "Boob tube" used to describe the instrument, when now it clearly describes those who find escape or answers or life watching it. I will be out and about tomorrow night popping in here and there, seeing the sights, kissing cheeks and telling bad jokes. I will DJ the last desperate hour of 2011 and a few moments of the virginal 2012 at Goldbar before heading into the streets where I always find comfort.

My first stop will be Stash, my wonderful creation on 14th and 8th. It is now ready for prime time players, and I will gather with a few friends and owner Matthew Isaacs for a toast to what was and what could be. It’s intimate, colorful confines will do the trick. I will miss GaGa at Times Square for the ball drop and probably Debby Harry at The Boom Boom Room (yes I still call it that). Nur Khan’s soiree at Casa Le Femme might catch me passing through for a second as I believe that the celebrators there will be gorgeous and fabulous. These terms are often mutually exclusive. That is a concept sometimes misunderstood in nightlife. W.I.P. seems to be a place to be with legendary producer Scram Jones Djing. If I am still awake I will head to Pacha for the tomorrow it always delivers. Pacha always is fantastic on New Years Eve. Webster Hall as well. If size actually matters (and I do thank God everyday that it does), these two joints are answers to your what-to-do? questions.

If you still don’t know where to go to find your place in the universe maybe it is best not to do it. The desperation of New Year’s Eve is sometimes a downer. Get some sleep and gather with friends for breakfast. If you must hit the streets realize that most places have been rented out until 2am with four-, five- and six-hour open bars as part of the package. By 2am there will be millions of not-so-hot messes walking and driving. Subways are reliable, packed and therefore safe at all hours. I tell everyone to hire a car and driver from your local car service for your peak hours. They charge 40 to 50 bucks but will wait for you anywhere and whisk you around and take you home safely. Split this with a few friends and it’s very affordable. Taxis will not be an answer. Places like Lit and White Noise, which are essentially mom and pop operations — saloons run by saloon keepers with panache — will often be the best place to enjoy the ride. They will be affordable and usually controllable. Anything goes in the big clubs, and if you don’t believe me ask any experienced security worker or company operator. They dread NYE.

Be careful, have fun and most of all don’t try to pack a whole years worth of partying into a single evening. Carry hand warmers and power bars and a small bottle of water. Stash some extra cash and only use it for an emergency. I worry about you.

DJ Elle Dee: “I Made the Wrong Comment In Front of The Right Person!”

I’m still recovering from the weekend which lasted an extra day for me. That was an extraordinarily wonderful idea. I saw The Hunger Games and loved it but offer a couple of observations. The club world was looking like those people 10 years ago, and it is wonderful that some people postulate that the extraordinary from now will be the norm. Michael Alig, Sacred Boy, Astro Earle, and the club kids of our recent past may have been a lost bunch, but they did do this… then. Secondly, as a hospitality designer, I must poo-poo the future furniture and set designs. Almost everything I saw I have seen before and is for sale at the modern furniture boutiques that grace our town. The rooms looked like something out of the The Real World L.A. rather than a true futuristic vision. I would have done better, as would a thousand other design visionaries.

As a DJ in this wonderful town, I offer my own rock and roll stew at places that want that sort of thing. Adam Alpert at 4AM (which handles me) puts my ass in the right seat. Most clubs in town offer up the same old mash-up and mixed- format swill to their bottle-buying guests. It’s what they want when they pop bottles and so they must have it. Most DJs in these situations could do so much more but find themselves playing down to the crowd as musical ignorance is bliss. I am not complaining, as I enjoy my niche. It is wonderful when I walk into a room and hear a DJ that curls my toes and fills my ears with sounds less often heard. At The Double Seven the other night, DJ Elle Dee thrilled me. I asked her some questions about herself and her craft.

How did a nice girl like you become a DJ?
I grew up in a very musical home. My mother’s father used to play bossa nova with the big guys so my whole life we had jam sessions in my living room till very late at night. I started to play drums myself I was 14, so music was always a huge part of my life. Back in São Paulo (where I’m from), I started to play at rock parties when I was only 19. At that point it was all vinyl too; there were no computers and even CDs were not accepted at all. It was the real deal. It was only a fun thing to do though, not my full-time job. I was finishing studying journalism and had my own fanzine to work on. When I moved to New York five years ago this April, I managed to do what I do best… I made the wrong comment in front of the right person!!! I was out with some friends and said to one of them “Why is it so hard to find a good DJ in NY.” A voice came into the conversation and said, “Can you do better?”  The following Monday I was on and, of course, after the first song the whole equipment collapsed and the music stopped completely – haha.  I recovered from that pretty quickly though and soon everyone was having a great time. I locked my first weekly gig that night.

I heard you spin the other night and was quite impressed. When we spoke, you talked about how rare it is to find a place to play that doesn’t want a commercial or familiar set. Expound.
I am actually really lucky to only have gigs where I can play what I like and believe in. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I like to work with owners that understand that a cool night is good for business too – even refreshing, let’s say. It also attracts interesting people.

DJ Elle Dee

How do you mix in newer or hipper stuff to keep from going nuts and continue enjoying your craft?
As a DJ, I believe I should be the one to find what’s new and good out there. Even though I’m all about the old stuff, it’s so nice when you discover a new band or track that amuses or inspires you and then get to share it with everyone else. It’s like a mission every night and I love that challenge. I try to make a new track mix with an old one that I know everyone already loves, and get them to believe that the new one is one they’ve known for ages. Making it work is a challenge, but I love it! Getting people going with new or even obscure tracks – it’s what gets me going! And that’s when I remember why I put myself through all the work. It’s very rewarding.

Where will this take you and what else do you do?
That’s a question that I wish I had the answer to myself! As long as I’m involved and around music, I’m happy. And if I can make a living out of it, ever better. I am a musician at heart and always will be. DJing gives me stability and a way to explore and learn every day, and that allows me to work on my own music. I’m in a good place right now and feel confident to be going back to the studio to work on my own tracks. I’ve been writing songs for years and now it’s time to get ready to perform live. I will always keep spinning though because I really love what I do. If I go on a vacation, for example, after only a few days I already miss the DJ booth and, of course, all those people dancing on the other side.

Where can we hear you?
Right now I spin in the city five nights a week so it’s not that hard to bump into my set here and there. I’m regularly at The Electric Room at the Dream Downtown, Boom Boom Room at the Top of The Standard, The Double Seven, and Soho Grand. I travel a lot, opening shows for bands as well. I’m about to go back home on a little tour which is gonna be so great. So far, I have six gigs booked and a few more that we’re trying to fit in as I’ll only be there for two short weeks. Once I’m back I’ll finalize my website –djelledee.com– which will have some mixes for all. I’ve got some very big surprise gigs coming up but I can’t tell you quite yet… Once I can, I will be posting it on my Facebook and all those other communication tools of life.

DJ Martial Is Just Getting Warmed Up

Marshall Weinstein, known to club-goers and music aficionados as DJ Martial, is having trouble getting used to the deep freeze New York currently finds itself mired in. When I reach him by phone at his Brooklyn apartment, he’s just returned from a work trip to the Caribbean, a difference of 1,650 miles and five layers of clothing. "I was DJing in St. Maarten in 85 degree weather and here it’s 10 degrees outside," he says with a laugh. "The airplane wouldn’t even go to the gate because it was frozen, they had to bus us in. It was crazy." He won’t be frozen for long, as he’ll soon be on his way to balmy New Orleans for a handful of gigs centered around the upcoming Super Bowl. We caught up with him during his brief layover to find out how he got started, his favorite clubs to perform in, and his secret for de-stressing fast.

Where are you from, and what kind of stuff were you into as a kid that led you to being a DJ?

I went to elementary, middle, and high school outside of Boston. I started DJing in 1993 when my older brother introduced me to underground electronic rave music. I was 13 at the time. When I graduated from high school I moved to New York City. My mom is originally from Long Island and my dad is originally from Coney Island, Brooklyn, and my whole family lived in the New York area, so it was a no-brainer. I went to Hofstra and DJ’d my way through college. I’ve been actively in the New York music scene since 1998 when I came to the city.

So, Yankees or Red Sox?

I’m definitely an all-Boston sports fan. It’s a little upsetting with the Patriots losing recently, however now that I’ve got some gigs at the Super Bowl I can focus on work and not sports.

How did you start DJing in the city?

When I got to New York, I realized that I had access to the best city in the world that had the best music. At Hofstra I was on the radio, and I majored in television video production communications, so music was always a part of my life. Whether it was in the studio working with audio tracks or video, or at the radio station on the air, all I did was music music music. When I got out of college, I was still DJing nights and weekends. With my full-time job – I worked at MTV and in the industry – eventually it steamrolled. I was picking up more and more gigs to the point where I was burning the candle at both ends. I couldn’t be in a television studio at six o’clock in the morning when I got out of a club at four.

So you decided to make a change?

In 2006 I realized that I’ve been DJing for 13 years, but I had a career in television. I said to myself, I’ve always wanted to be a full-time DJ. I had an opportunity to work overseas for three months as a DJ, so I sat down with my boss at the time and explained it to him. He said, you’ve got a lot of passion for this, so go for it. I put in my two weeks, it was December 2006, and since then I’ve been a full-time DJ. I also do a lot of private events, not just in New York but around the nation and internationally, and I book DJs at clubs and events through my company, SET Artist Management.

Is that when the momentum started to build?

Once you do one event it leads to another. Being humble and staying true and smiling and constantly following up with everybody, it leads to an escalation. Since then I’ve never looked back or second-guessed myself on leaving a career that I went to college for.

What kind of clubs were you playing at the time?

When I went overseas I was working in Israel, in various places in Tel Aviv,  Jerusalem, and Haifa. Clubs like Shalvata, Lima Lima, City Hall, Layla Bar.  Then I came back to New York and gigs started to add up, residencies here and there. I’ve worked at clubs like Beauty & Essex, WiP, Double Seven, Top of the Standard, Yotel, Stash, STK Midtown, Gansevoort Park, Bounce Sporting Club on 21st, Haven Rooftop.

How would you describe your musical style, and how do you adjust that for the crowd and event?

I’m a 100% open format DJ. I love all types of music and I’m not afraid to drop anything. It’s not about what you play, it’s about what you follow up with. You can drop a song from the ’70s and people start to get into it. For the next song, whether it’s a huge club banger or a perfect smooth transition, it can make the song before it that much better. My outgoing personality shines through my beats, like a sixth sense. I bleed hip-hop, ’80s, rock, house, and still stay true to the music and dance floor because I keep those classics in the mix. And I have no problem playing the most current, hottest tracks, to do whatever I can to keep the dance floor packed till dawn.

So you believe that the context is important, it’s not about any one individual song, it’s about the whole set and the vibe you’re putting out there?

Yes. It’s not like I’ll play one ’80s song, one ’70s song, one rock song, one hip-hop song. Then it can be a bit ADD. It’s more about the way you blend different genres of music together throughout the night to build that crescendo. You finish the night and people look at their watches and they can’t believe it’s four in morning and the club’s still packed.

What do you have going on with the Super Bowl?

I’m down in New Orleans Thursday through Monday. I’m working at the NFL House, doing parties Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and I’m doing a number of parties for CBS, including pre-game and post-game on Sunday. The two CBS parties I’m involved in, there’s one Friday night at the Contemporary Arts Center, and Saturday I’m doing the party at Generations Hall with a live performance from Trombone Shorty, who is a really talented local guy who does huge live performances with a big band feel.

What else do you have coming up?

I’ll be DJing in the number one college town, Morgantown, West Virginia, at a place called Rock Top. I’ll be in Boston. I do a lot of private events for BlackBerry, since I’m the official Latin American BlackBerry DJ. In the summer I’ll probably have a lot of Hamptons gigs.

What clubs do you like to play in?

I like being close to the crowd. Mid-sized clubs work really well. I love working at Stash on 14th Street. Beauty and Essex is a great place to feel the energy and the vibe, and Double Seven is another spot where you’re right in the mix.

What’s on your iPod?

I have a series of playlists for all the new stuff I need to hear. There’s never enough time in the day to hear all the new songs. But when I’m relaxing, I love old school music. Old classic rock, ’70s, ’80s, things like that.

What do you do to relax and de-stress?

I love going to the Russian and Turkish Baths. Sometimes I just need a good shvitz. And I’m not afraid of the cold pool either.

What advice do you have for aspiring DJs?

Be as musically knowledgeable as possible. Everybody knows that electronic music is huge right now, techno, house, dubstep, but the more versatile you are, the more gigs you can play. If you want to specifically become an electronic music DJ, and that’s your passion, go for it, but if you’re trying to get noticed and get gigs and get experienced, the more versatile you are, the more avenues you have. Stay humble and keep in mind there’s a big line between work and play. Keep a clear mind.

Do you enjoy going out and experiencing DJs and live entertainment? Check out the BlackBook City Guides for all the best spots in New York and around the world. Download the free, GPS-enabled iPhone and Android apps, and sign up for our BlackBook Happenings newsletters for New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Knowledge is power. 

Industry Insiders: Chad Campbell, Night Rider

With a capacity of just 110, Mister H at the Mondrian SoHo is one of the most exclusive nightclubs in Manhattan, but general manager Chad Campbell works hard to keep it humble. The Kansas City native, who traveled the world before helping to open such New York clubs as Top of the Standard and Jimmy at the James hotel, aims to create a cozy environment, where the 1930’s Shanghai design stimulates conversation among guests.

His welcoming approach can be seen in the eclectic crowd that fills the space every night, where bottle buyers and models rub elbows with actors, artists, and creative people of all stripes. “I’m looking to see who’s going to add something to the energy and vibe of the room,” he says. “We want it to be a social, unpretentious environment where people are inspired to talk to their neighbors with no confines.”

Industry Insiders: Mina Soliman, Style and Substance

Mina Soliman is a woman of many talents. She once served as the general manager of the legendary New York restaurant Indochine, she helped launch the Top of the Standard nightclub, and she has supported herself as a fit model for various fashion companies. "I have worked in fashion, nightlife, and hospitality for the last 20 years, and the best way to describe what I do now would be as an independent creative consultant," she says. 

To that end, she’s in the process of launching an upscale women’s swimwear line called Mina – soon to adorn fashionable beach bunnies around the world – while managing Red Bird, the catering company she owns. As if that’s not enough, she also works the door at Meatpacking District hot spot the Double Seven

Her background is no less eclectic. Born in Ethiopia, she moved to Saudi Arabia as a kid, went to boarding school in England, and studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "The truth of the matter is that working in fashion, organizing an event, hosting a dinner party, and working in nightlife is all about giving an experience," she says. "I enjoy constantly being on the move and working with different people, and I love the magic of collaboration and interaction." 

So what’s the secret to her success? "No matter what you do, it’s important to be honest and positive," she says. "Stay grounded, because it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype." 

4 Out of 5: Baker on New York

Baker is a pop singer from New York. This is his take on four places he likes, and one place he doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Top of the Standard – "A.k.a. the Boom Boom Room. A classic. Beautiful people, beautiful space, and a great vibe."

Electric Room – "This place is beneath the Dream Downtown. It’s very different than other places because even though it’s in the super-clubby Meatpacking District, they often play alternative or punk music and make great drinks. If fist-pumping isn’t for you, this is the place to be."

Simyone Lounge – "A.k.a. SL. This club can get a little intense sometimes with security and lists, but once you’re inside, it’s a lot of fun."

The Westway – "My favorite spot. There’s always a great mix of people there, and they play the best music. I’ve never had a bad night there."

NOT SO MUCH

Cielo – "A club in the Meatpacking District. You’ll never see someone who lives in Manhattan inside those doors."

NYC vs LA: The Thompson Concierges

Keeping up with what’s new and trendy as well as checking in with old favorites is the balancing act that is the job of a hotel concierge—after all, the buzziest restaurant in town may mean a long wait and lousy service, which translates to unhappy customers who would have been happier with a tried-and-true standby that still offers them a taste of the city. We went bicoastal find out what the pros at the Thompson Hotel Group are recommending these days. This is what Kelsey Wilson, a lead concierge at the Thompson Beverly Hills in LA, and Paul Salvatore Petersen, head concierge at 60 Thompson in NYC, had to say:

Favorite bar for cocktails?

LA: My favorite bar for cocktails would have to be SUR Lounge.  SUR has a separate lounge/bar area attached to the famous SUR Restaurant, located in the heart of West Hollywood.  The feel is trendy, sexy and elite, and the décor is absolutely stunning, as is the clientele.  

NYC: I love Death & Company in the Lower East Side. More and more bars are popping up where the cocktails have been elevated to an art form. Death & Company was one of the first places in NYC where these mixologists brought elegance and craftsmanship back to the cocktail. Not to mention how cool it is inside!

 What’s the best dish you’ve had this year?

LA: As I can think of several, I would have to say my absolute favorite dish has been the Miso Cured Alaskan Butterfish at Asia de Cuba.  The dish features Cuban black beans, edamame salad and tempura shishito peppers. I have had some amazing food but this was on a whole new level of delicious!  The plate was colorful, had amazing texture and totally surprised my palate.

NYC: I am going to say it was the Braised Lamb Shank at La Promenade de Anglais. It’s a new restaurant in Chelsea that is a great mixture of European cuisines, popular with the gallery crowd.  Their Lamb Shank, braised perfectly and placed in a bed of their amazing Polenta, makes this Italian-American a very happy person!

What’s the toughest door in town right now—and how can I get past it?

LA: The toughest door is Los Angeles is at Sayers Club, right in the middle of all the Hollywood action. Sayers is ultra-new, ultra-exclusive and ultra-glamorous—don’t be surprised when you see celebrities here. Table reservations are always a good idea to guarantee entry and at Sayers, it is well worth it!  

NYC: Formerly The Boom Boom Room, and now called Top of The Standard. Even the guests of the Standard are typically turned away. Best way to get in is to go early. I can reserve you a table up until 10PM, but after 10PM it’s doorman’s discretion. It’s not 100% impossible to get in after that, but if you don’t know the owners, you better be dressed well and be nice to the doorman!

Where’s the best boutique to pick up a last-minute gift?

LA: If you need a last minute gift, definitely check out The Lemon Tree Bungalow in West Hollywood.  It has a lot of different gift options and is very well balanced whether you are looking for a housewarming gift, a holiday gift, or something bigger like an anniversary gift. The very friendly staff is helpful and also great at recommending the perfect item!  

NYC: It’s definitely MXYPLYZYK in the West Village. For years I have been going there for all sorts of gifts. They have fun and unique items for every room in your house or apartment. They also have books, kids toys, and even fish bowls made to hang on your wall. MXYPLYZYK really has a little bit of everything. Best part is it’s all affordable!

What’s your personal favorite room in the hotel, and why?

LA: This is easy, my favorite room in the hotel is the lobby! This isn’t just the obvious answer because I spend so much time here, but because I love the modern furniture and trendy feel.  We also just opened a brand-new restaurant that is connected to our lobby, Caulfield’s. It is a beautiful space with large windows that add some great natural light to complete the welcoming feel that any lobby should have.

NYC: Well the Penthouse of course! And if you have to ask why, then you need to come here and check it out. Call me and I’ll give you a tour.