How St-Germain Is Ushering in New York City’s Creative Renaissance
Creative pursuits have undergone a transformation over the last year. For some, like ballet dancer James Whiteside, the pandemic shut down the places where their art is made and enjoyed by audiences. And for others, like Oscar de la Renta and Monse creative director Laura Kim, creating meant trusting yourself to innovate and design without having a team around you the way you once did.
New York City is anticipating a creative resurgence this fall, with the return of New York Fashion Week and the reopening of Broadway and live performance venues. In celebration of this, St-Germain is hosting a pop-up salon inManhattan called Fleuriste St-Germain from Friday, August 13 until Sunday August 15 in collaboration with Whiteside and Kim. Guests can expect to step into a 1920s Parisian-themed salon that is a flower shop-cum-cocktail bar-cum-theatre venue, with hourly dance performances inspired by Whiteside and costumed by Kim and featuring cocktails showcasing the French elderflower liqueur.
Ahead of the pop-up’s opening, Worth caught up with Whiteside and Kim (pictured right) to discuss Fleuriste St-Germain, how the pandemic affected the creative process and what inspired the cocktails they created for this event.
Q: What inspired this collaboration with St-Germain? How did you end up partnering with them for this project?
A: James: I’ve always been an avid fan of the brand, so when I was approached to collaborate on the second iteration of Salon St-Germain, I was excited about the opportunity to spark joy, celebrate reconnection, community and of course, the hopeful creative resurgence this fall. Soon after I learned about how every bottle of St-Germain is made up of up to 1,000 handpicked elderflower blossoms, I was immediately inspired by the joy of giving and receiving flowers and wanted to reinterpret traditional French salons to the present day by putting a twist on a flower shop, or “fleuriste,” as the French say.
Laura: I was thrilled when the brand approached me for the inaugural Fleuriste St-Germain. This will be an exciting platform to initiate a spirited dialogue around the future of the arts and design with a like-minded community. St-Germain has always been a staple bottle on my bar cart because I love how it can elevate and work in tandem with so many different ingredients. And Fleuriste St-Germain will be just the same with the coming together of artists, performers, mixologists and New Yorkers alike, all in harmony for this experience. It’s been so invigorating to collaborate with James and the brand on the pop-up, as it marks an opportunity to think about the future for our creative industries.
What can guests expect from the upcoming salon pop-up?
James: On arrival, guests will be greeted with a floral wonderland, full of specialty cocktails and wonderful conversation. They will also be treated to special performances that I’ve put together where all the dancers will be wearing costumes originally designed by my lovely collaborator, Laura Kim.
How do you think the fashion and performing arts spaces have transformed moving out of the pandemic?
Laura: During the pandemic, I had a break to rethink about our work, and coming out of it, I want to make sure we are working responsibly for the world we live in, the environment and also the people we work with.
James: I think there’s a certain freedom in what people are creating these days. It feels as though everyone has a renewed zest for life, resulting in fresh, exciting creations. Our imaginations have been running wild for over a year, and it’s time to share what we’ve been percolating!
How excited are you for NYFW to be back on this fall, and what inspired your upcoming collection for Oscar de la Renta?
Laura: The DNA of the brand has always been to make clothes that are feminine and joyful. More than ever, I want that to be emphasized in our work, and it’s a summer collection so hopefully we will create pieces that will be able to travel the world and work freely next summer.
How does it feel to know live performance and theatre is coming back? How have you kept busy during the pandemic, and what are you most looking forward to with the return of live performing arts?
James: I’ve been working really hard to stay busy during the pandemic, but I have missed performing so much. I’m hoping that audiences are more excited than ever to see ballet performances, and I’m hoping that I can give them the shows that they’ve been waiting for! During the pandemic, I wrote a book, released an album of music, made music videos and did live charity classes on Instagram, among other things. When life gives you lemons…and all that.
What was the hardest part about the creative process during the pandemic for you?
Laura: The hardest part was not having my team and doing a lot of work by myself, which I think we all felt. However, I actually really loved working from my own home. I was able to really focus on what was necessary and got to listen to myself on what I felt I wanted to create.
James: The pandemic prevented any and all live performances. I missed the exchange of energy between audience and performer. The whole ritual of performance is something that thrills me, and I missed it very much during the pandemic.
What excites you most about this upcoming salon pop-up, and what do you hope guests take away from it?
Laura: More than anything, we are excited to bring people together again in a safe and fun way. We hope we can add a dash of inspiration and creativity to a summer weekend for everyone and reestablish community during this time. I am very excited to work with James and the St-Germain team. I love creative collaborations. I’m sure this will leave me very inspired, and I will learn a lot from this experience.
How can people get creative with St-Germain at home?
James: Whether you’re at home whipping up a classic spritz, experimenting with champagne cocktails or even putting a twist on a margarita, St-Germain is a balanced, versatile elderflower liqueur with notes of pear, grapefruit and tropical fruits that effortlessly elevates any cocktail.
This summer I’ve been inspired by the fresh, handpicked elderflower blossoms that go into each bottle of St-Germain and applying this through incorporating edible flowers as garnishes into cocktails as well. If you’re at home, using edible flowers as a garnish is a chic way to add color and joy to your cocktails for any occasion.
If you were to design a garment inspired by St-Germain, what would that look like?
Laura: Easy! It would be fully embroidered in elderflowers!
If St-Germain were a ballet, which ballet would it be?
James: St-Germain would be Giselle, a classic love story rife with beauty, nature, deception and forgiveness. Flowers play a huge role in Giselle, which makes it an obvious choice for St-Germain.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy St-Germain?
James: If I had to pick one, it’d be the St-Germain Spritz. Simple, yet elevated with only three ingredients—St-Germain liqueur, sparkling wine and sparkling water with a lemon twist to garnish over ice, plus it’s low proof, so what’s not to love? It’s an exceptional, effervescent cocktail and a next-level take on the typical spritz. However, for the Fleuriste St-Germain pop-up, Laura and I both created our own takes on a St-Germain cocktail in collaboration with St-Germain’s fabulous national brand ambassador Earlecia Richelle, which we urge you to try!
Laura: I created a Rosé Spritz, an aromatic spritzer inspired by my heritage and affinity for East Asian flavors. I paired elderflower liqueur with sparkling yuzu, rosé wine and also cherry blossom ice cubes (a homage to pressed embroidery elements in Oscar de la Renta’s Fall/Winter ‘21 collection). The strawberry-infused rosé wine also reflects the strawberry milk beverages served in Korean cafes during the summer, which I love as well.
James: I created The Ballerino which aims to capture the delicacy and verve needed to do my pirouettes and leaps on the stage. There’s a kick of ginger kombucha and lemon with bourbon, paired with the floral St-Germain elderflower liqueur and a sprinkling of micro confetti for extra flair!