c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — No one can say for sure why the fashion world has migrated en masse to the Marlton Hotel, and its restaurant, the Margaux, over the past few months. It didn’t even exist during last year’s September fashion shows. But everyone does agree: It’s a thing now.

“The last time I walked in there, the first thing I heard was ‘Eva!'” said Eva Chen, the editor of Lucky. “I literally bumped into Prabal Gurung, who was having dinner. Then I ran into the Dannijo girls, the two young jewelry designers.”

Sounds like a typical day.

“I remember seeing Prabal Gurung and Peter Som in the span of two minutes,” said InStyle’s editor, Ariel Foxman, recalling a recent brunch there.

Or take last Thursday night, right before Memorial Day weekend. In one corner of the restaurant, Kristina O’Neill, the editor of WSJ Magazine, was having dinner alongside her magazine’s creative director, Magnus Berger; stylist Clare Richardson; and art and fashion photographer Dan Martensen. In an opposite corner, Gina Sanders, chief executive of Fairchild Fashion Media, was eating dinner. (“It’s the third time I’ve been here this week,” she said.) Model Andreea Diaconu was there, too. So was Laurent Claquin, Kering Americas president. Vanity Fair deputy editor (and dress designer) Punch Hutton? Check. As was designer Melissa Coker. You didn’t even need a seating chart.

“It’s my favorite spot now,” Claquin said. “I just love everything about it. I love the atmosphere. I love the décor. I love the bar. I love the restaurant.”

If you work in fashion and would like to be left alone, this is not the place. “If I were having an affair, I certainly wouldn’t go there,” said Bonnie Morrison, the fashion public relations consultant.

A new fashion clubhouse has emerged. Much the way the Ace Hotel became a canteen for young techies or the Lambs Club is the lunchtime home for Condé Nast editors and media executives, the Marlton (along with the Sant Ambroeus on Lafayette Street or Narcissa at the Standard) is suddenly mobbed with people from the fashion industry for after-work drinks, dinner and weekend brunch.

Since last fall, there have been plenty of fashion-related events as well, including ones for Banana Republic and J. Crew and a New York Fashion Week dinner party for Moncler. Designer Olivier Theyskens had his 37th birthday dinner there, along with guests that included Sky Ferreira and model Jamie Bochert.

“We’re doing a dinner for Lucky over the summer, and my team was like, ‘Where should we do it?'” Chen said. “And I was like: ‘Oh, the back garden at the Marlton. Perfect.'”

But how exactly does this happen? What makes the fashion world decide, collectively, that this is the place to go? This isn’t a unique trend — fashion people have a tendency to descend upon a bar or a restaurant and make it their own, as they did in years past with places like the Bowery Hotel, the Waverly Inn, Indochine and Bungalow 8, which is now closed.

“The fashion crowd, we move in packs,” publicist Celine Kaplan said. “It’s a strange tribal movement. The tribe gathers, and you don’t know why. All of a sudden, this is the place to be. Word gets around, and it’s not because of social media. It’s not because J. Lo showed up. You can’t really predict it.”

It’s all a little bit of a happy accident. (“It’s slightly lazy, but in the best possible way,” Morrison said.)

“In a lot of ways, it’s just easy,” Som, the designer, said. “I think everybody’s so busy, and the Marlton is a place that’s on everyone’s mind. It’s like, ‘Oh let’s just go there.’ I don’t think it’s ever a conscious decision.”

Then again, this is an industry that’s all about trends and — to quote from the pointed song selection of Nicolas Ghesquière’s debut show for Louis Vuitton — copycats, whether it’s conscious or not.


“It’s like how on the runway suddenly you’ll see nine designers all showing butterflies or how Céline and Chanel are both showing brush-stroke prints at the same time,” Chen said. “There is this strange, subconscious undercurrent of groupthink that happens.”

The fashion crowd doesn’t seem to discriminate by meal or time or day of the week at the Marlton (“I like to go there at different times of the day,” Claquin said). There’s a front lobby, which includes an espresso bar, that caters to daytime meetings and early-evening cocktails, and a bar and restaurant (along with a small, covered terrace). The brunch menu features fashion-friendly snacks — avocado toast with dried chili — and its cocktail menu accommodates the fussy by detailing which wines and spirits are organic, biodynamic and sustainable.


The Marlton is the work of Sean MacPherson, the hotelier and restaurateur behind other favorite fashion haunts like the Jane and the Waverly Inn. The Marlton opened over a century ago and operated as an SRO and a New School dorm before MacPherson got to work on it. The hotel has 107 rooms, and MacPherson’s design has drawn comparisons to Parisian hotels. (“It reminds me of Paris,” Kaplan said, more than once, in an interview.)


“The place was built to be a canteen,” MacPherson said. “The lobby is like a living room. There’s been this sort of Williamsburg-ization of Manhattan. In many ways, the Marlton is an antidote to that. There’s a demand for the Williamsburg aesthetic, but there’s also a demand for the opposite.”

The hotel is on an otherwise unremarkable block that has long been known for its shoe stores.

“It’s on that stretch where there’s not a ton going on,” Som said, adding that that’s where he used to go in college to buy his Doc Martens.


Som said he liked it because it seemed “under the radar.” This was a recurring theme. The thing that made it popular among fashion people? That it’s not that popular. Or that it isn’t a scene, exactly.

(“My automatic reaction whenever somebody says, ‘This is the place where fashion people go’ is for me not to go,” Som said, laughing, before he conceded that he does indeed go there.)

Likewise, Claquin said he liked it precisely because “it’s a little bit of a secret.”

“Fashion people don’t like crowded places,” Morrison said. “Unless they’re crowded with people that they know. We like really empty restaurants. And it really doesn’t have to do with the food, either. It has to do with the society, the conviviality of being in a restaurant. There are certain places all over New York where people go over and over and over again. Fashion people do that, they really do that.

“You need the endorsement, but once you get the endorsement from the entire pack?” she continued. “It becomes set in stone.”