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NEW YORK — Perhaps nowhere else in the Garment Center here does the it-takes-a-village mind-set seem to be in place better than at the Caravan Stylist Studio.
Five flights up at 36 West 38th Street, Claudine DeSola runs a one-stop shop for wardrobing, hair and makeup services that is aimed at actresses, musicians, bloggers and other influencers. With a LED flat-screen TV, DJ equipment, performance area, couches and conference area, the 2,500-square-foot space can also be used for photo shoots and special events. What really sets it apart is designers, guests and visitors do not pay a dime to Caravan Stylist Studio.
“The studio feeds on their creativity. The way we support ourselves is through sponsorship — we have brands that want to support creativity and the fashion community and be around influencers such as bloggers, actors, musicians, cool DJs, etc., so they are the ones that make this space come to life,” DeSola said. “The goal of the studio is to build more awareness about the offerings of the Fashion District while introducing creative people to one another.”
In fact, 2,000 “influencers” have visited the space in the past few months, and DeSola readily admitted that half of them never would have thought to have come to the neighborhood for a party. Positioning the neighborhood as a hip place to hang out is second only to DeSola’s goals of persuading people to check out the Madein Midtown and Save the Garment Center projects and hashtagging everything “#Fashion District.”
“Our Foursquare says ‘in the fashion district’ and we talk about it with everyone that comes through the door,” DeSola said. “People are starting to really mention it. It is a big awareness project to get people to not only think of the area as a place where showrooms, button and fabric stores are, but also to think of it as a cool creative area they can hang out in.”
On Oscar night, for example, guests had their hair done by Arrojo and Babyliss, and makeup and skin care touches were provided by Ulta and DDF Skincare. By having such sponsors as Babyliss Pro, Caboodles and DDF Skincare, as well as support from Ulta on specific projects, the studio seems more like a private club than a place of business. To help pay the bills, DeSola recently launched the Caravan Stylist Studio Web site, which has an e-commerce component for the 50-plus labels affiliated with the West 38th Street space. She also spends about half of her time working as a senior vice president in the fashion and lifestyle division at Dan Klores Communications, handling clients like J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
To get a better read on the neighborhood, DeSola recently gave up her Greenwich Village apartment to move to West 37th Street. Her Jane Jacobs-type quest has only become more intent as the fashion industry has become more digital, and many designers, as well as the Council of Fashion Designers of America, are moving to other parts of the city. DeSola now works right across the street from her mentor, Yeohlee Teng, who continues to play an instrumental role in re-envisioning the Garment Center and championing locally made goods. Working for the designer was her first full-time job after graduating from Marist College. After a run at Pompei AD, DeSola helped start Think Public Relations in 2002 and while there she worked with Teng again. Last summer she decided to step out on her own and is no longer affiliated with Think.
Like Teng, DeSola is frequently plugging Made in Midtown. “All we can do is try to get people to check out their Web site and to utilize their social media to educate others,” she said. “Paul Fisher of [the CW show] ‘Remodeled’ just heard about it from me and now he is posting a whole blog.”
DeSola is also intent on compiling a directory of Made in New York labels so that consumers and local businesses can support them. She is working on that project with handbag designer Michelle Vale, who is also the creative force behind the “Make It in Manhattan” documentary, which features Nanette Lepore and Teng, among others. DeSola is an advocate of developing a Made in New York label and has wondered how having New York-based brands commit to producing at least one item in the city would boost ancillary industries including advertising, marketing and publishing.
On Wednesday, Thre.ad, a members-only site for sharing street style, will host a styling event at Caravan, and later this month Fathom Away, a travel site started by Jeralyn Gerba, will launch its travel lecture series in the space.
Earlier this month, Boy Meets Girl’s Stacy Igel filmed the last episode of her Web series for Lockerz about Sophie Elgort photographing Sabi in the studio wearing Boy Meets Girl and a few of Caravan’s other designers. (Elgort’s father, Arthur, is the Vogue photographer.) About 200 “creatives” turned up and Igel had teamed with Jimmy Crystal, a local sunglass label, for the party. A week or so before that, Socialyte had more than 40 people swing by for a bloggers’ lounge to get made up before some of the fashion shows. “It was more of a chill out spot than a gifting suite,” DeSola said.