Samantha Wasser is a force to be reckoned with. With not one but three restaurants under her belt including by CHLOE., The Sosta, and soon to be opened Dez, Samantha is redefining what it means to be a restaurant founder. Equal parts attune to menu, social/digital, and design, Sam's quickly cemented her status as a NYC hospitality maven. And while we're obsessed with eating at her establishments, we're equally as enamored with her closet. Vintage Chanel earrings the size of a fist, Dior saddle bags from the early aughts, and pristine Paco Rabanne from decades past are just some of the guest stars.
by CHLOE. is so incredibly well curated. When you seek to design a restaurant, be it The Sosta, by CHLOE. or Dez, what are the guiding principles that inform your choices as a Creative Director?
When I’m developing a new concept, I always try and picture a place that I’d personally want to go, I very much design for myself. I take inspiration from a lot of things like travel, flowers, interior design, fashion and of course, different decades. by CHLOE. has a very art deco/pop art vibe, The Sosta is inspired by Wes Anderson and Dez is a bit more 70’s/psychedelic with a Middle Eastern flare. My guiding principle is always to trust my gut. It took me a long time to realize that was the most important guiding principle I could adopt.
What's something you didn't expect about being a restaurant founder? What's the hardest part of being a restaurant founder?
How much of an impact a curated Instagram account would have on the overall brand. I knew that Instagram was an important tool to grow the restaurant, but I’ve been completely overwhelmed in the best way possible by how much Instagram has come to be a defining element in shaping the by CHLOE. brand. The hardest part of being a restaurant founder is realizing you cannot be in every place at once and you cannot do everything on your own. I’ll always walk into a location and notice little things to fix and move, but it’s taken me a long time to realize and understand that I have to trust and rely on my team to be my extra eyes, and unfortunately, no one will ever see through my eyes as the founder and creator, and that is OK.
We're reading Danny Meyer's book "Setting The Table" right now and he says, "A great restaurant is one that just makes you feel like you're not sure whether you went out or you came home and confuses you. If it can do both of those things at the same time, you're hooked." We feel like that's not only an excellent quote about hospitality, but about establishing an excellent user experience in general. What do you want your customers to feel when they walk into one of your restaurants?
At the end of the day, I spend so much time designing these new concepts, all for our customers to enjoy. I want our guests to be happy when they visit us. To enjoy the space and our design, feel comfortable dining with us, and feel satisfied with the food they’ve ordered. The plans, selections and designs i create all come down to what will make our guests the most happy. Dining out should be fun, not serious so I really try to take that into account with everything I do from the interior design and branded packaging to even the bathrooms!
Now onto fashion, you obviously have amazing taste and the vintage in your closet was unbelievable. How'd you first get into vintage clothing?
I always loved fashion even from a young age. One of my best friend's mom's shows at NYFW so in 4th grade we were playing hooky from school and went to the tents. That really introduced me to the crazy and thrilling world of fashion! Fashion is definitely an expression of my mood. It is such a fun way to be uniquely you that can change based on how you're feeling or because you feel like it. I love the freedom that fashion allows you, because to me there are no rules. I love mixing prints, colors, styles etc. The crazier the better. Fashion first and foremost has to be about how it makes you feel. When you stop dressing for other people or what you think is “fashionable” that’s when you can feel your best.
What are some of your go to places to thrift in NYC?
I love the Manhattan Vintage Show! I go every time they are in NYC and find the best treasures. I have made so many friends with the vendors and love to hear the stories about each piece I adopt :)
What is your most beloved vintage item? What's the backstory?
I found this incredible black satin clutch with gold beading that resembles a diary. The front says ‘Strictly Personal’ which flips open to reveal a beautiful hand beaded poem –
“Someday you may chance to look in this private little book.
In it you are apt to find
snatches of my secret mind – thoughts of love and life and such, thoughts that don’t mean very much to anyone, except me.
Best close it up and let it be!”
It is so beautiful and I will always treasure it.
Do you have any tips or tricks for first time vintage shoppers?
Don’t get overwhelmed. Take a deep breathe and go at your own pace. Also there are no ‘rules’ just find what speaks to you and make up a story and fall in love. Lastly bring cash! Especially at a vintage show it’s the best way to negotiate the price down.
Any vintage items you're currently on the hunt for?
Right now I’m in the market for vintage fireplace tools and Murano glass vases. I’m loving the ribbon style vases I keep seeing on ebay! I also collect vintage beaded bags so I always have my eye out for a new baby to add to the collection.
Images by Erika Flynn.
Read our Thrift Shop with Annie Georgia Greenberg