West 38th Street in Manhattan pretty much shuts down most nights come quitting time, but Yeohlee Teng had the neighborhood jumping after hours Tuesday.
Several well-wishers who turned up for the opening of her new design space and store at 25 West 38th Street chatted outside to better appreciate the exterior of the multilevel Joerg Schwartz-designed space. The bright red Malaysian Kitchen food truck parked out front was added incentive to go al fresco.
Lest anyone forget Teng’s favorite cause — Save the Garment Center — “Made in Midtown” was emblazoned on the first- and second-floor windows in a display designed by her architect friend Calvin Tsao. Supporters of that cause and of the designer in general included Nanette Lepore, Anna Sui and her brother Bobby, Harold Koda and Leonard Nimoy and his wife, Susan. (Some discussed the Oct. 21 Save the Garment Center noontime rally that will be held at 39th and Broadway.) But there were other clues as to who the guest of honor was, should nonfashion types have wondered what all the commotion was about. “I [Heart] Yeohlee” signs were posted all along the block, thanks to the children of graphic designer Ayse Birsel, who is friendly with Teng and has an office across the street.
“The best part is the realization of a dream. I have wanted forever to be able to have a window to the world and to be able to create a real environment for what I do — for selling, buying, shipping, branding. This is a real opportunity but it is also contextual,” Teng said.
The designer declined to predict first-year sales for her store. Enthusiastic as she was about opening her first store, Teng said she was more motivated by the process of design. Last year Teng was instrumental in recruiting the Design Trust for Public Space to partner with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to create Made in Midtown, a study of the apparel industry’s inner workings and its role in New York City. That initiative made her question, “How can we evolve the discussion for the 21st century? I thought about doing something that would encompass a store, design space, showroom and shipping. It’s what we should be,” she said. “Every person should know where the clothes they buy are made. You know how localized food is popular? Localized clothes should be too.”