New Yorkers are self-aware enough to admit that Fashion Week is just as much about the clothes as it is about the hype, and nowhere does the hype thrive more shamelessly than at the exclusive and invite-only afterparties that happen throughout the week. One of the most anticipated afterparties of the season was that of French-Belgian designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin, whose genderfluid pieces blend elements of queer sexuality, club culture and the 90s. For his NYFW debut, de Saint Sernin channelled Robert Mapplethorpe, a queer artist who had an indelible impact on Downtown culture before he died of AIDS-related complications in 1989.
The afterparty happened at the Boom Boom Room in Chelsea, and attendees included Kelela, Bretman Rock, Denzel Dion, Prabal Gurung, Xunami Muse, Honey Balenciaga, and others. When I arrived around midnight with some friends, there was a line that stretched down half the block and for at least 20 minutes, didn’t move at all. In line with us were designers, influencers, and models — and a group of girls who thought it was just a regular night at Le Bain (they went elsewhere after a few minutes). Half an hour later, we found our way inside.
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If you haven’t been, The Boom Boom Room is located on the 18th Floor of the Standard Hotel and you have to take an elevator to get there. Its grandiose gilded interior is an ode to 1940s clubs and it has some of the best views of any venue, with floor-to-ceiling windows all around and a clear line of vision toward the Empire State Building. The crown jewel of the space is a giant tree-inspired centerpiece that towers high above the bar.
As suspected, the party was extremely crowded, but the energy was high, courtesy of an open bar and uptempo sets by Juliana Huxtable, X3butterfly, River Moon, Fashion LaBeija, and Katie Rex. It was sweaty and sometimes uncomfortable, but that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Unlike some other New York Fashion Week afterparties, which can feel a little stiff and networky, this one actually felt like going to the club, and one that was actually fun. Each corner felt like a celebration of New York queer culture, the exact type of space that Mapplethorpe would probably have loved to see: Next to the space’s red piano were girls dancing in mesh tops, people posed dramatically in their elaborate and colorful fits near the entrance and on the dance floor, I rubbed shoulders and ended up dancing for hours alongside socialite Croix Sinclair, Leak designer Louis Dorantes, Pedro Vidallon and Paul Tran, founders of the queer Asian collective Bubble T.
Perhaps one of the reasons the space felt so freeing was because of the nature of what it was. De Saint Sernin is one of the few designers who is pushing gender fluid clothes on such a large platform, and the fashion week collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, which provides grants for HIV/AIDS research and prevention, allowed a community to rally around it. De Saint Sernin has said that he’s deeply influenced by Mapplethorpe ever since he read Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which takes place at The Hotel Chelsea just blocks from where the afterparty took place.
“Mapplethorpe had the audacity to share his fantasy with the world and I think that’s really powerful, because he helped a lot of people, including myself, to really be daring and embody every part of ourselves,” de Saint Sernin told Vogue.
If the afterparty at the Boom Boom room is a slice of Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s world, then we have something to be excited about.