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Open House

Fashion News

Rima Suqi, New York Times contributor and author of the buzzed-about “American Fashion Designers at Home,” (Assouline) spent months researching the homes of fashion designers from Jason Wu’s Midtown Manhattan apartment to Donna Karan’s Turks and Caicos retreat—some of which have never been seen before. Here, we catch up with Rima for a private tour.—Tali Jaffe

How did you first become interested in the project?

Karen Peterson and Steven Kolb of the CFDA approached me about writing it.

Did you have the opportunity to visit all of the featured designers' homes? Can you share some of the more memorable moments with us?

I went to as many as would let me in! Some highlights include having couscous prepared by Selima [Salaun’s] mom in her Berber housecoat one night, and dinner with Peter Som—who loves to cook and is currently in a pasta-making phase—the next. His pesto is divine. I’ve also been lucky enough to have dinner at Gordon Thompson’s Hawaii house with its amazing view of Diamond Head. That house isn’t in the book but his Los Angeles apartment is—it’s filled with a wonderful mix of vintage furniture and the former resident was Bette Davis.

In your introduction, you write, “Our homes are, after all, the ultimate reflections of our identities and aesthetic tastes.” Were you ever surprised by the differences between a designer's fashion aesthetic and that of their home’s?

There were a few surprises. Lela Rose—that was a big one! If you know her fashion you think of pretty feminine designs yet her loft space is ultra-modern, designed by architects that used to work for Rem Koolhaas.

Tory Burch’s place is much more traditional that I thought it would be—then again, she lives in the Pierre Hotel. Not exactly a bastion of modernism. Stephen Dweck also has a very formal place—and it’s his beach house! At the Jersey Shore! Bob Mackie—not a feather or sequin in sight—just lots and lots of color.

Did you have the opportunity to visit all of the featured designers' homes? Can you share some of the more memorable moments with us?

I went to as many as would let me in! Some highlights include having couscous prepared by Selima [Salaun’s] mom in her Berber housecoat one night, and dinner with Peter Som—who loves to cook and is currently in a pasta-making phase—the next. His pesto is divine. I’ve also been lucky enough to have dinner at Gordon Thompson’s Hawaii house with its amazing view of Diamond Head. That house isn’t in the book but his Los Angeles apartment is—it’s filled with a wonderful mix of vintage furniture and the former resident was Bette Davis.

When did you first begin the interviews for this project? How long did it take to complete?

We started in August, 2009 and shipped last April.

Overall, were the designers open to having their homes featured in the book?

The CFDA asked their 300-plus members to submit their homes for the book, and we have about 115 included, which I feel is an impressive response. I believe this is the first time that this many designers’ homes have been featured in one book.

Of course there were some who chose not to participate. The ones I wish had said yes were (in no particular order) Reed Krakoff, because he has incredible taste and his wife is a great interior designer; Isabel and Ruben Toledo because they live in one of my favorite spaces in New York; Alexis Bittar because he’s a friend and has taught me a lot about art and antiques—but his new apartment wasn’t quite ready; Tom Ford because, well, he’s Tom Ford. And Sean Combs new place (designed by Benjamin Noriega Ortiz) because it is incredibly sophisticated and would change the way many people thought about “Diddy.”

It must be impossible to work on a project like this one and not want to adopt some of the ideas you've seen. Any renovations of your own underway?

Hardly. I live and work from a 35-square-foot studio apartment. I aspire to a one-bedroom.

This book is one in a series that the CFDA has developed with Assouline over the last few years. But it seems like this one has gotten quite a bit more press than some of the others. What do you think makes this book so appealing?

Because looking in someone’s home is incredibly voyeuristic and, at heart, we’re all voyeurs. Fashion designers are considered celebrities now and many people feel they have some knowledge of a designer’s life because they wear their clothes or have seen them on TV. But nothing is more revealing about oneself than their home.

This must be a difficult question to answer, but was there any one home—or perhaps a single room—that stands out as your favorite?

That’s like asking me to pick out a favorite shoe—impossible!

“American Fashion Designers at Home” is available at Books & Books, Bal Harbour.

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