Scene of the Crime: Soho House NYC Meatpacking District

Monday, 5 April. 2021: Scene of the Crime:  Soho House NYC

High above the heat of the New York streets.

We’ve all had the vaccine here and with the Pandemic winding down – at least in America – we’re planning again our future travels after 17 months. My thoughts often turn to my beloved NYC and our preferred Soho House in the Meatpacking District. I was going to write a thousand words on a single photo, but decided it was better to write a commentary. I reckon this will need more than a thousand words.

We all have a favourite place, haven’t we? A place we have fond memories of. A place we always look forward to returning. I have many. Barcelona Hotel Arts, London Ritz, Folkestone, Cranbrook, Chateau Marmont. Choosing one is ever difficult. 

One of my favourites is the Soho House in the Meatpacking district of Manhattan. I have dozens of wonderful memories of this place. Although my wife and I hold membership, we don’t get to New York often enough. Instead visiting the Barcelona Soho House. Glorious as it is.

A moment from the Soho House must be August 2006 when Rock & Republic showed its Spring 2007 line at Soho House. A series of unfortunate — later fortunate — screw ups lead to the brand being without a location for market week. Soho House came to the rescue. The Soho House library was little used. People came to the House to be seen, not hide in a library. So, the space was hired for five days and transformed into a boutique. I suppose now it would be described as a “pop up” but that term did not exist in the 2006 fashion world where even the iPhone was still a year out and Instagram and Twitter did not exist. 

So, Rock & Republic had its space to exhibit its spring 2007 line. And, at the coolest, most happening location in the City, where if you didn’t have a membership you could forget about getting past reception. Everyone wanted in. In the lounge. And in the summer months, on the rooftop. 

I have made mention of the Soho House in another post.

The meatpacking location first opened its doors in 2003. I was new to living in the City then. But by 2006 knew it well from walking all over Manhattan. The rooftop of the Soho house and its swimming pool were the epicentre of New York’s happening social scene and getting a golden ticket to enter the rooftop became a challenge for even the best VIP poseur. Bluff and name dropping seldom, if ever, worked. 

The rooftop is a tight space. The pool small. The numbers of lounge chairs available even less. And if you managed to get a lounger…or even more prestigious…a daybed you were it!

I never got a daybed. I was never it.

August is either a great month to be in New York, or the worst month to be in New York. Depends entirely on to whom you talk to. It’s hot. Humid. And on garbage collection days, the odour of rotting garbage rises above the city streets like poison gas from a trench. For residents it’s the month to get out of Manhattan for the tree lined peace and fresh air of the Hamptons’ beaches. 

But, for part-time residents such as myself, August was fantastic. In 2006 I flew into JFK the middle of the month to prepare for the Fall Fashion and Market Weeks Events and also attend the US Open tennis tournament. 

It was a hot August and within a couple days of arrival we soon realised R&R didn’t have a booth reserved for market week.

A Getty Image that includes me in the boutique set up in the Soho House Library, August 2006

Uh-oh. Someone forgot. Not participating was not an option. Fortunately, the Soho House was willing to make their library available. The R&R booth was taken out of storage in Brooklyn and rather than delivered to the Chelsea Piers to be assembled was taken to the Soho House. In the end only a few bits were used as R&R went for more of a boutique vibe than a booth.

Nobody had an idea how it would be received. Intermezzo was just that. An intermission between Coterie. But it was still important. And If you wanted to sell you brand you had to be there. One stop shopping for buyers. Not being there was the kiss of death for a brands entire season. 

What nobody expected was how successful not being at the piers could be. 

As I said, August 2006 was a cooker. As Augusts are in Manhattan. Since we were spending so much time at the Soho House we booked a room to use during the day for a little nap. Well. To be honest, I was the nap taker. And since we had a room why not sit on the roof and have a bit of lunch? 

That all changed with the heat. Not only did we sit on the roof and enjoy an alfresco lunch, we ended up sussing up an available lounger and sit by – and later – in the pool. During the hot & heavy days of market week word travelled fast R&R was not at the Chelsea Piers but in a boutique in the library of the Soho House. Everyone who wanted in the Soho house in those dog days of summer had an opportunity. What began as a trickle of clients visiting the library and placing orders for Spring ’07 gear, turned into a tidal wave when those same clients learnt they could conduct the order poolside. 

By the second day of Intermezzo buyers were stopping briefly in the boutique to see the line and then asking to go up to the roof for a lunch and do a deal. More often than not, they desired to skip a table and sit in the pair of loungers we hogged all day long to conduct an order followed by lunch and cool drinks under the August sun, all the while dangling legs in the pool with the Who’s Who of fashion victims. 

What a gas!

It’s worth a mention getting a lounger poolside at the Soho House in August is like Charlie’s Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory. The pool is tiny on the rooftop. And the loungers are there for hotel guests and members alike. And they cannot be reserved. 

It’s first come. First gotten. 

An R&R intern was sent to the rooftop at 6 in the morning to grab a pair of loungers. She had to remain there until we arrived to occupy them. Although this sounds like a chore, I have no doubt the intern didn’t mind much sitting poolside in a bathing suite on the Soho House roof like Carrie Bradshaw in a Sex and The City episode all the while being plied with breakfast and cold drinks. 

I remember the day before market week I began kicking back at the pool working on the tan or  leaning against the side of the pool talking on the phone whilst the President of the company sat in a deck lounger doing paper work whilst a gorgeous lunch was brought to us. It was a moment to enjoy. 

And we did.

There would be many other moment on the Soho House roof. But only one other stands out as especially memorable. 

Fast forward. 

Intermezzo again. This time at the very beginning of August 2007. 

And hotter still being the first week of August. I had already enjoyed a week in the Hampton’s sunning and funning and was back in the City feeling rested and ready to go. 

By 2007 R&R was at its peak of popularity. Sales were excellent and the company was able to get top interns to work the trade shows. The president of R&R arranged cocktails on the rooftop at the end of Intermezzo for the interns followed by a sick good Mexican dinner across the street at Dos Caminos. The president thought she could bribe me into going to dinner with the promise of a table of ten in which I was the only dude. 

She was about to find out I could not be bribed.

It was a hot August evening. At 8.00 we were all on the roof with the rest of fashion’s glittery people enjoying cocktails at dusk after an incredible market week at Intermezzo. Sitting amongst a  female interns and my ex-wife, swizzling champagne and Greyhounds I noticed the Soho House staff inflating pool floats before tossing them into the pool. 

I inquired. As one would.

They told me something wonderful. That summer they had been showing a film one night a week. Instead of in the Soho House screening room they were projecting it on a huge wall behind the pool. 

‘Where will people watch it from?’ I asked.

Ambient video on the wall where JAWS was shown.

‘The pool. Where else?’

‘And what film would be shown?’

‘JAWS. Of course.’

Just to clarify in my head. I could float about a rooftop pool in a fashionable part of New York City on a sweltering August evening? I cold sip cold drinks whilst on said float? And I could watch my favourite film of all time about a big fish that eats people in 1970’s Amityville?

More modern floats. In 2006 they were using rafts and some inflatable chairs

I informed the president of R&R I would not join her and eight female interns for tacos. Bye.

Of course this did not sit well with the prez. But. Well. This was a once in a lifetime moment. And I was not going to miss out on it. 

So. It was everything and more I’d hoped it would be. I was already wearing plaid shorts. I abandoned my hightop sneakers and Black Watch polo by the pool edge and floated around with dozens of others crammed into the pool swizzling cocktails for elevenses and laughing hysterically like lunatics escaped the asylum. 

I don’t remember the night’s end. I’m pretty sure I got hammered on Greyhounds.

New York in August. It’s not bad by half. 

As always. Keep safe. Take care of one another. Soon enough we’ll all be back at it.

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