Q&A: Event Planner Jin Yu of Jin&Quinn
One of the LA’s top upscale event planners shares secrets for the perfect party, and more.
March 27, 2013
|Jin Yu of Jin&Quinn is one of the city's top event planners.|
Behind every great event, is a great event planner—so when we wanted to dig up tips for throwing a great party, we turned to Jin Yu, one of LA’s most in-demand event producers. Yu is one of the founding partners of Jin&Quinn, a branding and events firm that produces unique lifestyle experiences.
The group is behind throwing swanky soirees for L.A. Fashion Week, Fred Segal Santa Monica, Ducati, and the Black Eyed Peas at some of the city’s most coveted venues. Below, Yu clues us in on his company and gives tips on how to execute the perfect event.
How did you get started in events?
JIN YU: I amassed a pretty impressive database while I managed Mastro’s in Beverly Hills in 2005. Our regular clientele included Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise, and captains of industry in almost every category. I was asked a few times to help produce some charity events in the capacity of celebrity outreach and financial and product sponsorships. I found that I enjoyed producing events and it eventually led me to launch my own business.
What is the greatest party you've ever thrown?
JY: The one party that stands out is my Sunday jazz night series. It’s inside the main lobby of the W Hollywood Hotel (6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-798-1300) and I’ve been producing and hosting it for two-and-a-half years. In the last six months alone we’ve hosted Dr. Dre, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jared Leto, and many more. Our average attendance is 600-700 weekly.
What's the secret to throwing a successful event?
JY: As an event planner/producer, you must completely acknowledge Murphy's Law—‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. ‘ It's not about possessing a negative outlook, but rather being totally prepared for the worst-case scenario for every item on your event checklist. You can never be caught off guard. Always have a back up to your back up's back up plan.
What is your advice for people hosting their own at-home parties?
JY: Don't stress over the minor details. Life is imperfect and sometimes so are parties. Let go of seeking perfection and take comfort in the fact that your guests are here to see and enjoy you. If you're not having fun, neither are they.
Do you have a favorite event venue in Los Angeles?
JY: Station Hollywood & The Living Room (6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-798-1360)—the main lobby and the outdoor patio at the W Hollywood. It’s 70's-meets-Scarface-meets-retro-chic. It’s a massive space, yet feels incredibly intimate.
Q&A: Academy of Speed’s Pierre Keyser
Successful businessman uses his passion for athletics to open a top-notch training facility.
March 08, 2013
Southern California's Academy of Speed produces some of the world's fastest and most agile athletes.
Pierre Keyser, founder and chief executive officer of American Optical Services, might seem like an unlikely person to launch an athletic establish. Although Keyser is responsible for bringing luxury optical brands like Cartier to the forefront, he has always maintained a strong passion for athletics.
Finally, fueled by inspiration from his daughter, Keyser used his love of sports to launch the Academy of Speed (AOS) with the goal of creating faster, more agile athletes. Equipped with USATF-certified coaches and the largest permanent indoor track in California, AOS has garnered record-breaking athletes like boxer Joey Diaz, who participated in the Olympics last year, and the 14-year-old Richardson twins, who are currently the fastest female Filipinos.
We caught up with Keyser to find out more about AOS and what it’s like to produce champions. 10339 Dorset St., Rancho Cucamonga, 855-267-7733
What fueled your desire to begin training young athletes?
PIERRE KEYSER: It began with my daughter not receiving the proper attention from her track coach in high school; I built the facility and saw how much she improved. I then thought about all the kids who did not have the same opportunities, and decided to open my door to all those potentially great athletes and give them the springboard to a better future through education and scholarships at the best universities in the US.
How did you develop the Academy's philosophy?
PK: I believe in basic principles to success—integrity, passion discipline, fun, and loyalty. These values were applied in the academy and have produced a great crop of athletes.
Were you an athlete growing up?
PK: I boxed and played hockey in Belgium. I was a very tenacious and unwavering athlete—my tenacity and commitment outweighed my physical ability. Today, I still box and everyone knows I never give up….
Many of your athletes are breaking records across the globe at such young ages. How does it feel to play a role in that?
PK: It is the greatest feeling in the world—that is the way we should help one another as human beings. I am so proud of them and my heart smiles every time I hear of their successes. My head coach Jon Gilmer gets all the credit, as his passion and dedication are what make these kids stars!
What first went through your mind when Joey Diaz was offered a spot in the Olympics?
PK: I was very excited for him and happy that we could help him in his quest to reach his goal. He will be a world-class champ in the near future.
What's the biggest challenge of running the Academy of Speed?
PK: The sheer number of kids who now want to be part of it and the constant need to ensure we are the best facility in the USA. We will need to build more facilities in other cities to expand the dream across the [the country].
Beau Laughlin Talks New Bar/Resto
With a new club, resto, and juice joint opening this year, Beau Laughlin is rocking the city.
February 25, 2013
How does South Santa Fe and 7th Place sound as 2013’s new corner of cool in LA? That’s where Beau Laughlin and his partners at Cardiff Giant are opening a basement jazz bar/restaurant in a brick industrial building that in a former life was a loading dock for Heinz.
If anyone can make an abandoned ketchup warehouse a center of culinary cool, it’s Beau and the boys. “We’re a little ahead of the curve,” Laughlin, 34, says of the industrial/creative Downtown ’hood that’s still relatively obscure, even to late-nighting locals. “It’s still emerging, so you have to ask yourself, Does this make sense?”
So far, it seems safe to bet on Laughlin’s instincts when it comes to LA dining and nightlife. He opened a juice bar, Clover, in January, and he and business partner Brett Cranston (along with the requisite partners and investors) own The Hudson and The Churchill, two of West Hollywood’s buzziest bars. (Bill Clinton chose the latter for a post-charity gala gathering that included Ted Danson and Mayor Villaraigosa.) This spring Laughlin plans to launch a club at the old Voyeur nightclub space, and the group has dozens of other projects in the works from Venice to Los Feliz.
When the team initially looked at the Downtown space, they didn’t know that Bestia was going in around the corner from their as-yet-unnamed restaurant. (“The hardest thing is naming,” he says. “It’s like naming a kid.”) Church & State is a couple of blocks away, SCI-Arc is down the street, and the new 6th Street Bridge project is nearby too.
Oh, and about that alley: It’s all part of the plan, since the owners convinced the powers that be to use-permit it as the venue’s patio space, allowing access and events until 2 a.m., seven days a week. “We’re going to do a bunch of cool stuff there, from concerts to farmers’ markets to pop-up art galleries. We’re really excited about it!”
Laughlin’s boyish buoyancy can be contagious, what with the manners and the good looks and all. But as a self described homebody (“I love hanging out at the house and being mellow”), the Eugene, Oregon, native is more likely to be seen running the hills around his Beachwood Canyon home than partying into the wee hours with celebs.
“A lot of restaurants make the mistake of having a preconceived notion about concept. We build the concept around the neighborhood and the space itself. Everything we do is about location, the space, and the community.” The Downtown spot is opening in early spring, and will feature an exposed-brick and wood-beamed postindustrial aesthetic with “an amazing open kitchen” and a gritty, low-ceilinged, Parisian-style jazz bar below. Laughlin says to expect an elevated culinary experience in the restaurant and the club “that will make people want to drive down and check it out.
“We can’t serve Stellas and mac and cheese,” he says. “No one’s traveling Downtown for that.”
photography by pamela littky
Diablo Cody on Hollywood’s Glass Ceiling
Cody talks frankly about the deficit of female screenwriters on this year’s Oscar ballot.
February 05, 2013
Cody at the 2011 premiere of Young Adult
She may be the proud owner of a best original screenplay Oscar (Juno), but Diablo Cody has a bone to pick with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: “There’s a clear imbalance that should be remedied,” she says of this year’s best screenplay Academy Award nominations, in which only one woman, Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild), is in the running. Perhaps that’s why her enthusiasm for co-chairing the third installment of the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College in New York was so palpable during our recent phone conversation. “When I heard what it was all about, which is women in leadership positions in film, I was really excited,” she says. Speaking from a position of relative power—Cody is one of the most successful female screenwriters in Hollywood (Young Adult, United States of Tara), and she recently directed her first feature—the Chicago native hopes to shed light on those women who’ve yet to break through in the film industry.
Tell us about the Athena Film Festival and your involvement.
DIABLO CODY: They approached me after their first year. I had actually never heard of the festival. When I heard what it was all about, which is women in leadership positions in film, I was really excited. For me, I just felt that the festival was absolutely necessary and really exciting.
Is there still a glass ceiling for women in filmmaking?
DC: It’s an exciting time to be a woman in the business. [But] for me, it’s also an important time to be a woman, because if you look at the recent Oscar nominees, not a single woman was nominated for best director. Of twelve writers nominated in the best screenplay category, only one is female. There’s a clear imbalance that should be remedied.
How do you think more doors could be opened for female writers who are just coming up in the industry?
DC: I always say that the women who are in positions of power—that are fortunate enough to be in positions of power in Hollywood—should advocate for other women constantly. If you’re a female studio head, you need to be fighting for the female director to be put on the project. I’m always advocating for women. I think it’s really important [that] if you’ve managed to get your foot in the door, you try to bring in more women like you.
The female characters you write are so unique, and real. What inspires them?
DC: Inspiration is a hard thing to talk about, because it’s hard to determine where ideas come from. I think some things are influenced by culture, and some things seem to come out of thin air. I do know that, for me, it’s an ongoing goal to tell women’s stories, and to tell stories [that] are in service of women. I’m just trying to tell offbeat, real, human stories that happen to have women as the center.
The Athena Film Festival runs February 7–10 at Barnard College in New York
photography by Jason Merritt/COurtesy of Getty images
James Oseland’s Foodie Favorites
The jetsetting Saveur editor and Top Chef Masters judge gives us a peek into his delicious world.
January 22, 2013
Your recently published “Saveur 100” list narrows down the best restaurants, recipes, kitchenwares, and so much more from the world of food. What was the biggest challenge in putting the list together?
JAMES OSELAND: The biggest challenge this year was the same challenge we encounter every year: how to whittle down hundreds upon hundreds of fabulous items into an even 100! It's one of the hardest tasks I've ever run into as an editor—and it never gets less daunting or difficult.
What's the best surprise dish you've had while traveling this year?
JO: The best surprise dish was actually a return to an old favorite, the cream of artichoke soup at Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero (202 Stage Rd., Pescadero, 650-879-0464). I spent a significant portion of my youth eating this creamy, luscious soup, but I hadn't tasted it in a few years. So, I recently made the pilgrimage to Duarte's—it's about 90 minutes south of San Francisco, on the coast—and was totally blown away by how good it still is.
When on the road, is there a meal that you associate with a specific destination and can't wait to taste from the moment you arrive?
JO: Whenever I arrive in L.A., the first meal I always have—and I really do mean always—is in Hollywood's Thai Town. There are so many good places to eat there. Ganda on Hollywood Boulevard (5269 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-466-4281) is a favorite, and I'm always so desperately hungry for good Thai food, because New York's Thai restaurants, well, let's just say I don't love 'em.
Let's talk cocktail trends. What are the hot new offerings at the top mixology bars?
JO: A return to flaming cocktails in all their gorgeous, pyrotechnic glory!
We very much enjoy watching you as a judge on Top Chef Masters. Who surprised you the most in last season’s competition?
JO: Working on the show for the last four seasons has been a total blast—it really is one of those pinch-me-I-can't-believe-this-is-really-happening gigs. The biggest surprise of last season? That every single, frigging thing Chris Cosentino cooked was just so delicious. I was totally floored by his skill at turning out one yummy thing after the next, even when he was way out of his comfort zone.
The "Canadian" Tenors Rock the States
In the midst of a North American tour, the group makes waves south of (their) border!
January 14, 2013
The Tenors (FROM LEFT): Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray, Remigio Pereira, and Fraser Walters.
Mention The “Canadian” Tenors (aka The Tenors) and the uninitiated might imagine a group of nattily dressed male songbirds playing the tuxedo-and-gown circuit to international acclaim. That picture is fairly accurate today, although it wasn’t always thus.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” notes Remigio Pereira, one of the four young men who have taken the Pavarotti-Domingo-Carreras model, scrubbed away the rust, and freshened it with some playful and inventive touches. “We started off grassroots, playing in church basements and around rural Saskatchewan. We did 12 shows in 14 days. We were dodging tumbleweeds on Highway 2.”
On this one particular afternoon in Los Angeles, The Tenors—Pereira, Victor Micallef, Fraser Walters, and Clifton Murray, prime candidates for the entertainment industry’s “all-amiable” team—have eschewed the chapel cellars in favor of a recording session at esteemed Capitol Records, using Frank Sinatra’s microphone.
In fact, there seems to be no end to the experiences that success has delivered to these maple-leafed minstrels who blend angelic harmonies that mix pop and classical to put a particular spin on signatures like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Sir Elton John’s “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.” They performed at the 2011 Emmy Awards. They sang at a Malibu dinner party hosted by composer David Foster that included Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, Regis Philbin, Piers Morgan, and Brian Grazer. The next night they were coaxed into cancelling flights and singing at Philbin’s 80th birthday party. They were invited to Jimmy Fallon’s birthday bash as well.
Foster, a fellow Canadian and an ardent cheerleader of the boys, has helped shepherd them through the velvet obstacle course of the music business and onto the world stage. “I have always been drawn to great voices, and I have the great privilege of usually working with one great voice at a time,” he says. “To have the pleasure of working with four great voices at once was a unique temptation that I could not resist,” says Foster. “These guys are incredible and harmonize like they came from the same parents,” continues the composer. “They have an amazing road ahead around the world, and I am so excited to be part of their success.”
The Tenors have sung for Queen Elizabeth II four times, have been befriended by Gene Simmons of Kiss, and are presently on the first leg of an extensive tour of North America—in part to promote their new CD, Lead With Your Heart, and PBS special, Live from Las Vegas—which will feature a stop at the Greek Theatre on June 1.
“We’ve done so many events here in LA that it’s really become a second home to us,” says Murray, who added that he, Pereira, and Micallef are considering a move to the city to be closer to Foster, who has taken up residence in nearby Malibu.
The Tenors have been together about five years now; three had already been working as a group when Murray came along as a replacement. Pereira and Micallef come from classical and operatic backgrounds, and the former is also a classical guitarist. Walters had been a member of the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Chanticleer and appeared in the musical version of The Lord of the Rings. Murray had acted in film and television, and musically hails from more of a pop and gospel background.
Comparing any group to The Beatles is to invite widespread eye rolling, but there is at least one common thread: This foursome also hopes to conquer the States. “We have two platinum albums,” Walters says, “and we’re looking forward to making a bigger dent in America.”
If their momentum continues at the current pace, they’ll likely have audiences swooning from sea to shining sea. “I think that’s why we all left our respective careers to pursue this thing,” Micallef explains. “There was something that overtook us and overtook the people who were listening to us. The response has been just unbelievable.”
photography by randee st. nicholas
Argo's Scoot McNairy
Costarring with Hollywood A-listers in buzzy new films, Scoot McNairy bumps up to first class.
December 10, 2012
It may be one of the biggest nights in Scoot McNairy’s career, but the 32-year-old actor seems oblivious to the flashing lights and hoopla surrounding him and his fellow Argo costars at the star-studded Beverly Hills premiere. Thanks to standout roles in Argo, produced by George Clooney and directed by its star, Ben Affleck; Promised Land with Matt Damon; and Killing Them Softly with Brad Pitt, McNairy is experiencing a career high, which seems surreal for the character actor who has been working steadily under the radar for almost 10 years. But right now, it’s nowhere as surreal as what awaits him at his digs in Hollywood.
“I picked my wife up from the airport and we found a stray pit bull-Great Dane mix by the side of the highway. He’s like a cow,” he says, shaking his head. “She tells me, ‘We have to find him a home.’ I’m like, ‘Babe, we have a premiere in three hours.’” But the son of a missionary mother and financial planner dad from Dallas, Texas, isn’t likely to turn down a challenge. And neither is his wife.
McNairy and actress Whitney Able had dated for three or four months when they costarred in Monsters, an improvised indie flick shot on location partly around Central America and also in Texas, with the duo covered in mud—and living together—for the duration. The experience taught McNairy everything he needed to know about his dream woman and now wife of two-and-a-half years. “She loves bad weather, the great outdoors, and none of the insects bothered her,” he says. “She kept looking at me, laughing because there were so many bugs hitting us. It was like snow. And I was like, ‘Okay. This could work out.’”
In fact, McNairy has made it a habit of moving in with his costars. Prior to shooting Argo, the six actors portraying US dignitaries during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis spent six days together sequestered in a house with no sunlight, wearing ’70s clothes, playing Scrabble and drinking. “For me, chemistry plays a big part in the process of the way I work, and living together you really get to know someone’s behavior,” says McNairy, who now counts these actors as friends. He’s also discovered that the A-listers he’s worked with lately are just normal, approachable guys.
You would think McNairy is settling into success, yet he’ll tell you that after each job he’s convinced he’ll never work again. But as much as he looks forward to a life fly fishing and building prairie houses—yes, the Laura Ingalls Wilder kind—on his Texas farm in the middle of the woods, the most sure-fire way to get him back in action is to tell him he’s doomed to fail. “There’s nothing that drives me more than telling me that I can’t,” he says. “It will just boil inside me, and I will kill myself proving to you I can….” Like finding a home for his newly acquired cow-dog.
photography by marc cartwright/vistalux
Interior Designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard
The interior designer talks TV shows, his growing brand, and relationships with celebrities.
November 09, 2012
World-renowned interior designer and decorator to the stars Martyn Lawrence-Bullard is upping his already skyrocketing status by reprising his role in the hit Bravo TV show Million Dollar Decorators for a second season (premieres Tuesday, November 13 at 10/9 c). In addition to his TV appearance, Bullard shares that he is also filming, producing, and starring in his own design show in England.
His brand, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard Design, is growing, too. Come spring 2013, Lawrence-Bullard will add jewelry and men’s fashion to his line of already-successful rug, furniture, fabric, and candles. You can also expect to see the luxurious Martyn Lawrence-Bullard Design more within the next year, since Bullard recently signed licensing deals with the world's largest and most famous crystal, tile and bathroom, and tabletop companies. Despite his busy schedule, Lawrence-Bullard made time to share his incredible experiences and stories with us.
Let’s talk about the show. What happens this season—any drama?
MARTYN LAWRENCE-BULLARD: The volume is going to be turned up from last season. I do quite a lot with Mary [McDonald], which didn't happen last season. She and I travel to India together, and we do a design collaboration for One Kings Lane, and the sales air live during the broadcast of the show. We design kind of an incredible tabletop and [find] holiday gifts and a whole bunch of things; everything is made and filmed in India, so that's going to be a really wild part of the show. I travel extensively during the show and open up my family to the show a little bit.
How did you manage to incorporate your family?
MLB: I design a pub for my sister in England—an extraordinary18th-century pub that used to be Napoleon's lover's home. We show the trials and tribulations of, number one, working with your family, and number two, opening in a timely fashion. It's really cute because it really shows a part of English culture. The pub is such a part England's experience, and so interesting that my sister, at the ripe old age of 55, has decided to change her career and open a pub. It's a completely new vibe. She owned fashion stores before and just decided to completely change paths and do this, so it will all unfold on the show.
Do we see any of the clients from the first season?
MLB: Of course we revisit some of our previous clients on the show this season, and there's some really fun stuff going on in New York. There’s a whole new experience that goes on with Tamara Mellon—it's very fashion-centric. I also decorate for the actress who has become very controversial lately, Stacey Dash.
Had the controversy hit at the time you were filming?
MLB: Actually, we filmed about a week before the whole political statement. So, that's going to be interesting. [This season] there's a lot of diversity, a lot of big-name celebrities that I cannot reveal to you yet, but it will add to the excitement. All of the cast members will have some really interesting clients this season, and I will be the one traveling everywhere.
You've managed to come to America and pave your way as one of AD's Top 100 in Architecture and Design….
MLB: For the past seven years.
How have you managed to not only make these iconic celebrities your clients, and keep them coming back for more—every party, every home—but also cultivate such close friendships with them?
MLB: I was very lucky. My first client ever was supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. And I was very lucky again—after completing Cheryl's house, my work ended up on the cover of seven magazines around the world. That house is still being published today, 15 years later. From Cheryl, it went to Rebecca Romijn and John Stamos, to Christina Aguilera, to Edward Norton.
The most important thing: when you're working with celebrities, sometimes you end up knowing very deep secrets…. It is important [that] you know your boundaries. That's why I have been so lucky with Elton John. I've ended up vacationing with him, I've been to all of his homes, flown all over the world to Africa and Hawaii, and same thing with Cher. I am spending Christmas with Ozzie and Sharon [Osbourne] this year. We've formulated really wonderful relationships because the design process is very personal, and if you understand how to work within each one of [the clients’] personalities, and respect their privacy, you can form a beautiful friendship.
What are some of the special requests you've been involved with, or special ways you’ve been able to be a part of your clients' lives?
MLB: When you get involved in anyone’s life, people end up going past just, you know, ‘what color fabric should I put on that sofa,’ or ‘should I put drapes on that window,’ and so on. I've helped Aaron Sorkin pick out his tuxedo for The Oscars. I’ve had clients have me go with them to Chopard and Harry Winston to help them pick out their jewels to wear to their events. You end up very much styling their lives and very much a part of their lives, and that's part of the honor of being in this business. Not really being looked at just for interiors—but as a tastemaker, and that's really the whole excitement of it all for me.
Liz & Dick's Grant Bowler
The critics go gaga for Grant Bowler playing Dick Burton opposite La-Lohan’s Liz Taylor.
November 01, 2012
Grant Bowler near his home in Venice Beach.
New Zealand-born actor Grant Bowler has a word for his experience building a thriving acting career in his adopted homeland, Australia, then trying to export that success to Hollywood: “Horrible!” he chuckles. “It was much worse coming over here and starting again than it would’ve been coming over and starting!”
It took Bowler, 44, a succession of trips to finally find a foothold in American show biz, but it’s taken at last with a slew of high-profile projects, including the lead role in Syfy’s upcoming series/video game hybrid Defiance and playing Richard Burton opposite comeback-hungry Lindsay Lohan’s Elizabeth Taylor in Lifetime’s telepic Liz & Dick. “When I first started coming to the States, I knew pretty much what I wanted to do—it was just getting enough runs on the board to be allowed to do it,” says Bowler.
After a few Hollywood “strikeouts” throughout the 2000s Bowler resisted the temptation to fall back on being in demand in Oz. “It was tough,” he recalls. “I had my friends saying, ‘Well, you have a good career at home—why don’t you just be happy with what you’ve got?’ And then I’d get into the thing of, ‘Am I just being greedy? Am I asking for too much?’ But at the end of the day I’m glad that I did that.” HBO’s never-aired 12 Miles of Bad Road was the game changer that put him on Hollywood’s radar—after a third disappointing US visit, he was too low on funds to return when an old audition tape unexpectedly led to the gig—and a new start. “Then things got rolling, but when it came, it came out of the blue. I had no idea.” Attention-getting roles in Lost, Ugly Betty, and True Blood followed, resulting in his emergence as a full-fledged leading man.
Then there’s Burton. “I felt for him,” says Bowler of the legendarily fiery, hard-drinking Welsh actor. “His relationship [with Taylor] in a lot of ways overshadowed so much about him. I’m not sure that he was, in the end, as a whole, as a person, better off having had that relationship.” He explains why the oft-controversial Lohan was better suited to play Taylor than some of her critics suggest: “I saw the similarities from the beginning: both troubled, both child stars. Actors who haven’t got into acting as an adult have a very different paradigm, so they tend to work very much more off instinct… I could see there were a lot of parallels there with the way Lindsay had grown up and the way Liz had grown up.”
Bowler also saw his own personal parallels in his part. “Playing Burton taught me that I can do most things when I put my mind to it,” he explains. “He was that guy, too. I got a lot of reassurance in him. He came out of a working-class family, he didn’t come up in the business—he pushed his way up. He worked hard and he got where he wanted to go.”
photography by melissa valladares; grooming by erica sauer for the wall group
Christopher Abbot: A Man Among Girls
The actor talks about his hit HBO show, style preferences, and more.
October 09, 2012
Black wool shawl-collar tuxedo ($2,295), dress shirt ($365), and silk bow tie ($120), Ralph Lauren Black Label. South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, 714-556-7656
Christopher Abbott plays the wallflower well. Standing outside The Bowery Diner in New York City, in a dark blue T-shirt, low-slung but fitted olive-green jeans, and a matching military cap, coolly smoking an American Spirit, he looks like any other 26-year-old on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s a definite departure from the more traditional look he dons as Charlie on HBO’s hit series Girls.
“I think [Charlie] is a little bit more buttoned-up but not stiff,” Abbott says of his naïvely kind and tragically berated character. “I find [costuming] a big thing for informing any kind of character. If I feel too much like me in something, then I feel kind of weird. I don’t mind sometimes being uncomfortable in the clothing because I think it’s informative to what that person is.”
His soft-spoken sartorial savvy doesn’t end there. “I like quality—things that last a long time,” says Abbott, who has already begun filming Girls’ second season, which starts in January; his feature film, Hello I Must Be Going, with Blythe Danner, opened last month. “I like to be very comfortable. I’m fairly practical, but I don’t necessarily give up the way something looks.”
To that end, the rising star and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, resident favors the rugged staple Filson, menswear master Alfred Dunhill, and Kentucky-hip line Rag & Bone. By contrast—and perhaps resulting from creator Lena Dunham’s commitment to authenticity—Girls’s costume designer, Jenn Rogien, sources most of the show’s garments from local Brooklyn shops like Beacon’s Closet, Atlantis Attic, Brooklyn Flea, and in Manhattan, Geminola.
In addition to taking inspiration from Rogien’s adornments, Abbott says his initial collaboration with Dunham significantly influenced how he approached the role of Charlie. “[Charlie] didn’t have a huge part in the pilot, so there wasn’t too much to go on,” Abbott says. “Lena was good about having me try more improvisational comedic things, and the relationship with her is what made me want to do [the show]. She writes a lot from people she knows and from experience, so she gave me a lot of specific traits that informed the type of person he is.”
And despite Dunham’s attempts to shrug off the inevitable comparisons, Girls in many ways is the modern-day Sex and the City, particularly in its portrayal of New York as a prominent player. The show was shot almost entirely in the city—including on location in Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn—and the setting, Abbott says, definitely affects how the characters relate to one another. “The show is specific to New York,” Abbott explains. “The people who choose to live in New York come here because they have this drive—there’s a certain energy to New York, and there’s something transient about it. The way people come in and out of your life is just accepted, whereas in other places, maybe it wouldn’t be.”