LOOK, UP IN THE SKY: For the designer Peyman Umay, a touristy trip to the Empire State Building with his father led to a new peak in his career: designing the uniforms for staffers there. Those who trek to the top of the Art Deco building will see his four-piece creations on its Observatory hosts. The redesign is part of a $165 million overhaul of the Observatory Experience.
To mark the occasion, the Turkish-born designer, who is also an American citizen, attended a kickoff event Tuesday atop the 1,454-foot skyscraper. The celebration included hitting the switch atop the Empire State Building to “Empire steel Gray” and “City View Blue” (think royal blue). In total, he has suited up 140 employees including those who photograph tourists and gift shop workers.
Three years ago when his father was visiting New York City from his home in Turkey, they took a tour of the iconic building with a friend who worked there. The New York-based menswear designer felt the uniforms worn by staffers did not reflect the building’s “unalterable identity.” After voicing that opinion, he suggested alternatives, creating sketches and swatches for potential replacements. That plan was shelved during the pandemic. But when a new vice president of operations was installed at the Empire State Building, Umay’s design concept was refreshed.
The designer reached out to the building’s president to relay what he had in mind: an of-the-moment interpretation of the “true soul of the building” versus rehashing the past. All of the functional designs are handmade, the buttons are lasered and collars are detachable to simplify cleaning them. “Every single detail reflects the building inside and out [as in the uniforms’ red lining is reflective of the interior of the walls],” Umay said. Motifs of gold cogs and wheels in the jackets and vests are a wink at the Fifth Avenue lobby’s restored 23-carat gold ceiling,
Having run his signature business for 11 years, Umay also offers women’s designs from his penthouse showroom in the landmark Bryant Park Studios at 80 West 40th Street. He will appear as a judge on an upcoming makeover show on TV that he was not at liberty to discuss. Umay is also in the running to design uniforms for an international airline. For now, he is reveling in the Empire State Building feat. “This was a dreamy journey. It just feels right. It was a most organic alignment between two brands. It was like this was destined to happen,” Umay said. “After 15 years, they changed the uniforms. I don’t believe in coincidences. I moved to the United States 15 years ago.”