As the sun set over the Manhattan skyline, an intoxicating blend of blue and orange hues filtered into Skylight at The Refinery, a crystalline crown atop The Refinery at Domino. A 19th-century brick landmark, restored by the developer Two Trees into an architecturally significant destination for office space, The Refinery at Domino will open to the market from its pristine position along the Williamsburg waterfront in a matter of days. To usher in its arrival, Two Trees partnered with Skylight (the women-founded and owned development firm at the helm of NYFW’s venue relocation for the past 15 years) for an utterly astonishing event. Entitled “Walking on Air,” the exclusive spectacle was the first-ever “see now, buy now” runway show in NYC by French luxury maison Hermès. Featuring a star-studded roster of attendees, the menswear event saw the likes of acclaimed filmmaker Taika Waititi, AD100 interior designer Andre Mellone, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and NYC-based star chef Rōze Traore (who recently opened the La Fourchette de Rōze boutique hotel in Côte d’Ivoire) strut through the space in the impressive winter 2023 collection.
Spectacular venues have long been integral to New York Fashion Week, from the iconic tents at Bryant Park to insider access at secret spots each season. Over the years, Skylight itself has become synonymous with locations throughout the week. “Our mission is to activate or revitalize historic spaces with energy through programming, events, culture and arts,” Skylight’s CEO, Stephanie Blake, tells COOL HUNTING. “Programming brings dynamism to static spaces. It enables a venue to move into the future. We work with landlords to identify a canvas where fashion brands can celebrate. These brands care most about physicality. They want to know, ‘how do you create an unforgettable experience?’ They look to Skylight for this.”
Skylight led New York Fashion Week’s move from Lincoln Center to Moynihan Train Hall, before it was revitalized. They were also staging events on the west side long before the High Line or Hudson Yards became attractions. “Back in the day, we had the Skylight Soho warehouse at Dominic and Spring,” Blake says. “We brought Steven Meisel to shoot Madonna for his Louis Vuitton campaign there. It became his private studio. We got Ralph Lauren to come down from the Upper East Side, to go to this little known space so far west when people were still asking ‘who would go over there?'” Skylight moved to Clarkson Square. Years later, Google followed.
“Fashion sets the tone,” Blake says. “Hermès being here, in Skylight at The Refinery, it makes a statement to all other industries. Fashion has an air of inaccessibility, and people want access. When fashion brands come to Skylight, they know we are offering inaccessible spaces. ” Skylight at The Refinery is the perfect example. Although The Refinery opens this 27 September, the Skylight penthouse space won’t until September 2024.
Skylight had been interested in the building for some time. Blake understood that as the west side developed, fashion would likely shift east—and to Brooklyn. “We always want to stay ahead of the curve,” she says. “Meeting with Jed [Walentas, principal at Two Trees], we understood he was a visionary and saw these neighborhoods before others. For Skylight, we want to be first to identify a location with bones and history—because our brands want to be the 21st century patrons of the arts, of community and culture.”
Hermès made for a fitting launch partner. Much like The Refinery itself, the maison weaves together an illustrious heritage with a quest for innovation. “I can’t imagine a better global brand than Hermès,” Walentas adds. “It’s their mixture of authenticity and old world history, while at the same time being so pioneering in their spirit and what they do, it all speaks to what we are trying to do here.”
Aside from the uninterrupted views of Manhattan, The Refinery’s other great success comes from its visual connection to Williamsburg. “You’re not just up in the air,” Walentas points out. “There’s an integration of the building into the park and the surrounding neighborhood. I like to think we do as good a job as anybody at creating real New York neighborhoods. We try to be intentional about that.” For a fashion week debut, partnering with Hermès and Skylight is as intentional as it comes.