“I’m so confused. Are the flowers edible, too?”
It was a peculiar question overheard at an intimate cocktail party on the Upper West Side Tuesday night, but not completely unwarranted. Former fashion designer Charlotte Neuville was toasting the publication of her “Stylish Cakes: The Extraordinary Confections of the Fashion Chef,” a book containing images, stories and recipes of confectionary treats created by the so-called “fashion chef.”
In the center of Chris Lacovara and Sam Green’s home (they were hosts along with Blaine Trump) sat a display of towering cakes, decorated in colored fondant, edible glitter and pearls, and frosting-based flowers. There were other flowers too, the real kind, and no, ma’am, those were not edible.
Next to the cakes was Neuville, looking like quite a dish herself, signing copies of the book alongside business partner Michael Coffindaffer. (The party, which acted as a benefit for God’s Love We Deliver and the Joan Rivers Bakery, raised over $20,000 in donations.)
The book comes just three and a half years after Neuville left her life in the fashion industry, where she ran her own company and also served as executive vice president of New York & Co. Inc. and Gap Inc. “It’s a baby brand that is just starting, as far as brands go,” she said. “[Making the book] was so intense. Michael and I are perfectionists, and it’s not just about perfection in the written form. The critical part was the aesthetics and how we present the brand.”
The resulting 239-page coffee table-ready tome, published by Harper Collins, is filled with personal stories, beautiful photography, and the occasional recipe or tutorial. In other words, more “Heartburn” than “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” “I’ll never be a cookbook writer,” Neuville said.
The range of cakes spans many categories — standouts include a Fellini-inspired multi-tier creation, replete with a hand-painted recreation of the Mona Lisa, and the Puff Daddy, a behemoth, full-scale statue of a poodle constructed exclusively out of cream puffs.
But Neuville’s fashion background is also fully represented within the pages. There’s a filigree “embroidered” cake inspired by a dress from Valentino’s spring 2013 couture collection; a leather and coin covered cake – an homage to Altuzarra’s fall 2012 show, and even a little black cake, an L.B.C. if you will, in tribute to Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
“It was critical for me to interweave the fashion,” said Neuville. “That’s who I am. I’ll always be a fashion designer. Now, my expression is in cake design, but in my heart, I am a fashion designer.”
Neuville even opened her first store four weeks ago. The Fashion Chef brick and mortar space is located in Brookyln’s Industry Park space, and as Neuville points out, it’s not your average bakery. “It’s open all day, and then in the evening, it becomes a wine bar,” she said. “We created it to be a little jewel, so that people could essentially come in and relax in a very quiet setting with great music and wonderful food.”
In a way, the store is a reflection of a long-held aspiration.
“In the very beginning of my career, I had a dream of having this little store in SoHo with my atelier upstairs, and I would go downstairs to see the customers,” she said. “I finally got it, but I’m not doing women’s sportswear — I’m doing savory tarts and sweet cakes.”