No city anywhere fuels grand imagination, inspiration, inventiveness and inexhaustible chutzpah quite like the Big Apple, heralds New York Chic, a sumptuous book recently released by luxury publisher Assouline. Its writer Armand Limnander—who was born and raised in Colombia, spent summers avec family in France and has been a devoted New Yorker for more than two decades—dives into the bountiful fascinations of this inimitable mega-metropolis: “Paris is the capital of France. London the capital of England. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and Beijing the capital of China. New York, on the other hand, is not the capital of the United States—but it is, unquestionably, the capital of the world. No other city can even come close to claiming that title.”
This hefty hardcover (10-by-13-inches, 312-pages) brims with engaging, enlightening photographs by stellar Oliver Pilcher, who delivers a visual feast. Creative direction by Thaddeus O’Neil adds to this triumvirate of bright-light pros. “I love New York and instinctively know what makes it chic,” Limnander explains. “But the more I tried to put this feeling into words, the more complicated things became. Isn’t chic supposed to be all about beauty, structure and elegance? At first glance, New York has little by way of rigor or formality; if anything, it operates like an impromptu ballet of barely controlled chaos. There is, to be sure, incredible sophistication here, but that’s not the first impression you get when you walk down the street. What then, I wondered, is the true essence of New York chic? I thought about how the city is made up of people from all over America and every other country in the world; about its mix of ideas and cultures, which I have always found so seductive; and about its spirit of optimism and opportunity.”
Culture Champion, Trendsetter
With deft-landing leaps, Limnander and Pilcher unfurl eye-opening text and images that focus on emotions and intimacies, cherished warmth and oh-so-cool vibe. Presented in New York Chic are varied neighborhoods, communities, gatherings, goings-on and folks. Observe a slice of who’s who and what’s what. Be buoyed to open your heart to New York’s soul. Shift your attention to the doers, dreamers, darers—and helpers. Peer inside revealing rooms of visionaries: artist José Parlá’s Brooklyn studio, hung with outsize color-rich paintings; fashion and interior home designer Lisa Perry’s serene penthouse on Sutton Place South, along the East River; fashion designer Zaldy Goco’s tactile studio in the Financial District; owner Jean-Marc Houmard’s celeb-magnet Indochine restaurant in Soho. Staring behind these and other oft-hidden doors is an intriguing, horizon-broadening kind of voyeurism.
All over New York City, notice ritzy gems, mesmerizing art, fashion-forward clothes and posh hotels, as well as swift-tempo-pick-up basketball games, street food-carts, iconic delis and sidewalk chess competitions. Applaud Central Park’s uplifting buskers. Be astonished by the city’s generous scores of verdant expanses, approximately 5.2-million public and private trees, as well as countless profusions of flowers. Pictured in this book are accomplished movers and makers: architects, biz execs, chefs, designers, finance mavens, painters, restaurateurs, shopkeepers and more. New York Chic, like the city itself, is a lively display of elaborate heights and small savored gifts. Sweet surprises, too. And, yes, it would be a lovely holiday gift.
Seductive, Scintillating, Sublime
In the book’s intro, Limnander sets the scene of his love affair with New York, remembering the summer day, post-graduation from the University of California at Berkeley, when he first alighted upon the city and it “was steamy, sweltering, crowded…,” he writes. “It was also utterly, completely and absolutely addictive. New York was unlike anywhere I’d ever been, in that everything seemed to be happening all at once—and out in public. Every restaurant and bar was packed…. There was a constant jostling of people, whether they were walking, chatting, taking the subway…. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but after just a few days I was certain that this was where I belonged.”
Connections, Energy, Strength
Limnander brings gracious and passionate perspectives to this celebratory publication. But New York Chic is not a book about Limnander. It is a stimulating and distinctive purview of a nonpareil hot spot. Here, “you need audaciousness, connectivity and expanding circles of influence…the ability to react quickly to every twist and turn,” Limnander reflects.
Once he figured out his path onward, as millions have done before him, “I felt like everything was at my fingertips,” Limnander recalls. “Nightlife, galleries, museums, restaurants and shops all awaited my discovery, and I couldn’t explore them fast enough. It was like the adrenaline rush of being a teenager, when the worlds that had just been out of reach suddenly become accessible.” Definitely, New York’s sights and sounds and tastes and things are note-worthy. But its residents are more so. “New Yorkers have a reputation for being brash, but everywhere I turned, someone had a job lead or an acquaintance they thought I should talk to…,” he reminisces about his early years when many were willing to help him find his footing. Ultimately, what New Yorkers treasure most dearly are the strong connections woven among individuals.
“Simply put,” pens Limnander, “New York chic boils down to an openness of spirit. It’s defined by the way in which the city welcomes everyone without asking questions. By the way in which it encourages aggregation rather than fragmentation. Nothing is sacred, and everything is up for grabs. Definitions of intelligence, talent and desirability are in perpetual flux…. People fly across boundaries, sparking interactions across private and public spaces.” Limnander recognizes that he doesn’t have the last word, of course. Many literary giants, artists, adventurers, entrepreneurs, climbers of all types who have lived and loved in New York have expressed its core attraction. “Some have remarked on its unique rhythm…. Others have been thrilled by the challenges and rewards that the city offers. What they all agree on is that there is something here that simply can’t be replicated elsewhere,” notes Limnander. Several of the quotable notables, included in this book, are below.
“New York is a city of constant introductions to new people, new places, new experiences.”—Fiona Mackay, art advisor
“New York is like no other city. You have Wall Street, titans of media and skyscrapers, but it is a city led by culture. Where else can you see a van Gogh exhibit, Hamilton on Broadway and then walk into a corner restaurant for dinner and sit next to Chris Rock? And that’s just a Saturday.”—Scott Sartiano, founder, Zero Bond social club
“New Yorkers are born all over the country and then they come to New York City and it hits them: Oh, that’s who I am.”—Delia Ephron
“Harlem, you are a tapestry of resilience and creativity, from the Apollo Theater to the charming brownstone-lined streets. Your rich heritage transcends time, echoing through jazz, blues and gospel melodies. Cornbread hugs!”—Tren’ness Woods-Black, senior vice president, Sylvia’s Restaurant
“Rome says: Enjoy me. London: Survive me. New York: Gimme all you got. What a thrilling proposition!”—Zadie Smith, novelist, essayist and short-story writer
“The energy, the architecture, the diversity. It’s every creative’s dream. It gives me this overwhelming feeling of purpose, like I am at the center of the world and anything is possible. I find myself falling in love with New York City over and over again.”—Demit Omphroy, artist
“People come here, and always have, for the sheer possibility of it! I was one of them!”—Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion and store presentation director, Bergdorf Goodman
“Its vast scale makes New York seem competitive and intimidating, but I think it makes the city more inclusive than other places I’ve lived. It’s too big and diverse and complex for there to be an elite ‘inside crowd.’”—Boykin Curry, investor
“I grew up in Manhattan and I’ve called New York home my whole life. I never cease to be impressed by the perseverance of the people in this city. The hard work, determination and ability to make something out of nothing is part of what makes New York beautiful.”—James Kent, chef
“New York is New York because of the people. They are why this city will never get old to me. It’s the incredible cast of characters that make this city tick, and they enrich it every day.”—Chris Gelinas, fashion designer
Traveling to the Big Apple? For even more detailed info and vacation strategies, go to New York City Tourism and Conventions.
Extra: New York Chic writer Armand Limnander is the executive editor of W magazine. Among his previous books with Assouline are Brazilian Style and Private: Giancarlo Giammetti. Photographer Oliver Pilcher, born in Scotland and now dividing his time between New York and Costa Rica, has worked with Assouline on an armful of books, including the best-seller Paris Chic.