Some of you may have landed here from my newsletter to find out more about why I left my rent-controlled apartment on East 14th street in Manhattan after 12 years of living there. Before that, the longest I had ever lived in any city was 3 years. After graduating college from Spelman in Atlanta, Georgia at age 21, and got my fashion degree at Parsons in NYC at age 22 (I took summer classes so I would graduate Parsons early). I stayed in NYC for 17 years.
While attending Spelman, before I moved to New York, I was super into the show, Sex and the City (weren’t we all?). Carrie introduced me to Manolo Blahnik shoes and as a graduation present from Spelman, I went to the Jeffrey store at Phipps plaza and bought myself the Manolo Blahnik Timberland boots that Beyoncé wore in her ‘03 Bonnie and Clyde music video with her now husband Jay- Z.
As I left Atlanta, I thought I was was on top of my game. I had gotten into Parsons my #1 choice for a fashion school and had bought myself my 1st pair of Manolo’s. I was ready to take over the Manhattan streets (and be a black Carrie Bradshaw).
I arrived to my dorm on William street downtown (off of Wall street), put on my Manolos and decided to walk to find something to eat. I walked all of 3 blocks in those Timberland inspired Manolos and had to turn back around to my dorm and change shoes. My first dream of living in the big city had already been crushed. I had to say good bye to heels, and had a $720 Manolo sized credit card bill that took me 5 years to pay off! They sat at the top of my closet my entire Manhattan life, and I never wore them out again. That's right- I have only worn those shoes, 1 time!
That’s NYC for you- fantasy smacking pavement first into reality…
What I love about NYC
I love the hustle. I love the energy. I love the diversity of people. NY is where I learned to approach and talk to anybody. This happened when I was working nights as a hostess managing a door with 400 -500 people. Anyone remember the STK / TenJune days of 2007- 2010? I was there at the start of those hospitality empires, working as a hostess. I would talk to to hundreds of people a night as I sat them at their tables. That experience made me able to literally talk to anyone.
I love the different kinds of living spaces in NYC: I saw townhouses, penthouse apartments, rail road apartments, studios, 2 floor apartments with stairs. With so many people living there, the decorating styles were as unique as the people.
Speaking of the unique people, when I lived there, NYC was basically Sex and The City IRL. A designer’s dream. I would sit outside with a sketch pad and design looks as I watched women walk by.
I can't say I love Central Park because I'm pretty sure I only went there once. In 17 years. I laugh as I realize this. What can I say I was busy.
I love that in NYC, you never know who you will run into on the street. That is what happened to me when I ran into designer Betsey Johnson one night after class at Parsons and she hired me for my first fashion internship.
Another time I saw the Dolce and Gabbana designers on Greenwich Ave in the West Village. I walked up to them and said "Are you umm... Dolce.. or Gabanna" (loosing my confidence as I realized I didn't know which designer had which name as they stood before me). The looked at each other with a half smile and said "No". As they turned around, I saw the D&G label on the back of both their shirts. It was them.
I loved doing VIP reservations at the hottest restaurant in the world and mingling with the likes of Jim Carrey, Diddy, Mick Jagger and Joan Rivers. Then after work being invited to chat with Francois Nars at his table at the Boom Boom room.
Above: Yana, former executive assistant to Francois Nars wears one of my dresses.
I loved blind emailing every editor at Hearst media and Amanda Hearst being the only editor who wrote me back, asking me to bring my collection by her office. She became one of my earliest and most loyal supporters. Adore you Amanda!
Above: Amanda Hearst in one of our custom dresses.
Elaine Welteroth was the first person to ever put my dress in a magazine. I met her one night at STK when she was attending a private dinner as a reporter for EBONY magazine in her early days. She was the first person to say 'yes'in a big way. I'll always be grateful to her for that.
Above: early Elaine wearing early AA.
And then... One night, I danced with Prince... For like 10 seconds.. But it happened.
That’s the thing about NYC, the extraordinary became ordinary. And I have extra ordinary stories for days.
Most of all, I love that I started my brand in NYC. I got to really learn the Manhattan garment district: the zipper stores, the lining stores, fabric stores, places to get shoulder pads and tie linings. I loved that these stores knew me and trusted me overtime. I love that when I got my puppy Tuesday, they all asked where she was when I walked into their stores. I got to really know my factories: who had the best quality for the highest price, who had medium quality for a medium price, who to never return to because their quality was below standard. I learned how to negotiate.
The first time I pitched an investor was in NYC (my boss and the owner of the restaurant- STK). I showed him a business plan I had poured my heart and soul into (without projections). He couldn’t take me seriously. When he asked to see my projections, I was like 'what are projections'? I had to learn. And I’ve come a long way.
I really do love New York. But, overtime I realized that I only worked in New York, I didn’t live in New York. Every second of my available time was spent working. After a while people stopped asking me to attend social functions because they knew I wouldn't come. I had become so isolated learning to become an entrepreneur and building my dream. I've been on a perpetual self imposed deadline for 13 years.
Here’s what I’m not so crazy about in NYC
Number 1, I could not stand the pests (rats and roaches). The subway- I grew to really dislike the subway. The germs. The dirt. The people. The noise. There was construction outside of my apartment for the last 5-7 years that I lived there as they built new apartment buildings, a new Target and a new subway entrance to the L train. Let me tell you a story. One morning, I awoke to my alarm, but had become so used to the construction that I slept through 2 jack hammers going off outside my window. That can’t be healthy, or normal.
I’ m not into apartments being so expensive that you have to live with at least one other person.
There is something so calm and soothing about being surrounded by greenery, water, the sun. Immersion in concrete is not the vibe for me.. anymore.
I guess at the end of the day, all that energy got to be too much for me. People, traffic, hustle, noise, lights. I need to feel a little calmer and move at a slower pace.
In my last nights in the city, I am re-watching all seasons of Sex and The City. All of the sudden being a real New Yorker, I know where most scenes were shot. One scene was even shot across from my apartment at what is now a Papaya Dog and used to be a Blimpie’s. Anyone remember the episode where a Blimpie’s sandwich keeps telling Miranda "Eat Me” as she walks by, and she develops a crush on the mysterious man dressed as a sandwich?
Also, how interesting is that it became way cooler to be a Miranda than a Carrie in the 2010’s? Miranda was career focused and unlike all her friends, men were the last thing on her mind. Her norm core suits and sneaker style became all the rage. Miranda had to be tricked into falling in love with Steve because she had better things to do in the morning than cuddle. Like go to spin class and pick up her dry cleaning.
Whatever- I’m still a Carrie. And I'm kind of on the hunt of my Mr. Big. Speaking of Mr. Big- here he is cuddling one of my dresses worn by actress Jill Hennessy. I told you the extra ordinary becomes ordinary in NYC. Jill blink if you need an out...
And again, speaking of the extra ordinary becoming ordinary...Here's one final story. One afternoon, Sex and the City costume designer Rebecca Weinberg walked into my job at Paul Smith 9 months pregnant and 1 day overdue. I still remember the bright blue, artistic, wacky and expensive picture frame she bought. She and I slowly began to build a rapport. When I ran into her a year later in Chelsea on the street and asked her for a job, she asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico with her to style a Playboy cover with photographer Sante D'Orazio the following week. She asked me, "Do you have your passport?". I worked with her for 5 years after that and she became a dear friend.
I love you New York. You gave me the story of my life, the hustle of my life and showed me if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere. But I’m leaving you.. for now.
Next Stop? Stay tuned….
Alexa, play "Now I've had the Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing :)