Courtesy of Apparatus

Nylon Nights

The Lighting Studio That Hosts New York’s Most Secretive — and Fashionable — Party

Inside APPARATUS’s annual event, where the dress code is strictly enforced — but anything else goes.

by Tim Latterner

“You know, when you think of fashionable parties, people think of fashion week, but they always forget about things like design week,” says Jonathan, a photographer in front of me in line for the bar at “Red Room,” APPARATUS’s big fête for NYCxDESIGN every year. “The truth is though, fashion week parties are so stuffed with influencers putting on heirs. Here, people are just actually stylish. It elevates the whole room.”

He’s not wrong. New York Fashion Week saturates the city with plenty of stylish people, but also masses of people trying to get an Instagram post out of it. NYCxDESIGN, going on from May 16 through the 24th, takes on a more mellow tone, but has no fewer parties. Between all the showroom openings, meet and greets, and brand’s new launches, one party always the hardest list in town: APPARATUS’s annual event.

The modernist lighting studio hosts an annual party with a strictly enforced dress code and theme that brings out the top brass of the design world year over year. This year, CEO and Artistic Director Gabriel Hendifar’s vision was “Red Room,” asking people to come in only red, white, or black for the evening. When I walk up to the building around 9:30, there’s already a long line running down 30th street, with everyone carefully adhering to the dress code in black boas, scarlet dresses, and white tuxedos.

Apparatus and Hendifar have turned a lighting company’s office and showroom into a kind of magic trick. Outside, 30th and 6th avenue is unassuming. It’s lots of ugly fabric stores and office buildings that look like they need a good power washing. Even in the lobby, guests glide in dresses over a tiled floor one would see in a middle school. Stepping off the elevator though, a large bank vault–type door is like a portal into Hendifar’s world.

Inside, the walls are all covered in a deep red hue. The ceilings soar, where they’re marked by APPARATUS’s pendants around the room. At a few different tables, they’re every red-colored candy one can imagine from Red Vines to gummy bears to sour lips to red-foiled Rolos. A DJ is playing disco music to one side and on a large center table is a bronze statue of a man in repose that I recognize from the invitation.

Through a corridor is the large back room where two bars are churning out drinks for people. It’s here that you see the design world’s brightest lights vying for the same champagne coups that I am. The woman in front of me, a prominent designer I won’t name, sees the bartender’s rationing out pours, orders two “for a friend” and as she’s walking away dumps one into the other and winks at me.

Everyone’s happier when they are walking around eating candy and drinking champagne while dressed up fancy. That’s just a fact. It’s why everyone gets along here so well. During the day, this is just the staff of APPARATUS’s office, and I wonder if they keep it in this moody lighting for their 9:30am standup meeting. John Derian emerges from what’s normally a conference room. He’s in an all-white suit and remarks on how it’s been great catching up with people all week for NYCxDESIGN. Everyone gets along in the design world. On a trip back for another Twizzler, I see architect West Chin, and after five minutes of catching up, decides he’s going to go find a place to watch the Knicks. In the mirrored connecting corridor, expert design consultant Kate Berry is taking a selfie with a friend.

Apparatus isn’t “effortlessly” cool (a phrase that gets thrown around too much), they work really hard to be this cool, and that’s a good thing. If there was a party for a few hundred people in your office, it’d be plastic cups, warm white wine, and fluorescent lighting. This group created a pocket dimension on 30th street for people to live in some kind of scarlet fantasy world for a night. As I walk back into the main room, the DJ is still playing disco, with a man breakdancing in front of the booth. While people are pulling out iPhones to film him, I see someone in my peripheral vision. An interior designer I recognize is pouring the silver bowls of Rolo’s into her purse. We lock eyes and she confesses to me. “I have to go, but these are my favorites and its a long day at the design show tomorrow.” Her secret’s safe with me.