Located in a historic townhouse on a residential Upper East Side block just off Madison Avenue, Moda Operandi’s new showroom is an interior decorator’s dream den. “We found ourselves in a unique situation, in that our customers ‘home’ is likely designed by Peter Marino or Jacques Grange, so the bar aesthetically was quite high,” says co-founder of Moda Operandi and style icon Lauren Santo Domingo. “Our customer isn’t coming to us looking to buy a soap dish or corkscrew, she’s more likely to leave with a Matisse side table, so we curate accordingly.”
A Borgo de Nor dress
The co-founder of the successful e-commerce shopping portal decorated the showroom herself. Splashes of peach and emerald can be found on the walls, as can attractive designer pieces, including a Giacometti side table from her Manhattan home. Large panels of de Gournay wallpaper and designer furniture feature in every room. However, hardly anything is fixed. The furnishings Santo Domingo has chosen allow for versatility; a private appointment can take place in the morning while a salon-style show can be held in the afternoon – exactly what is needed for an e-commerce brand of such weight.
Lauren Santo Domingo in a kaftan by Figue; shoes by Aquazzura; rings by Carla Amorim
While much of Moda Operandi’s activity takes place online, a physical place for clients is also of great importance. In 2014, during a time when most brands and designers were closing their brick and mortar locations, Santo Domingo opened the first Moda Operandi showroom in London and then a subsequent one in New York City in 2016. “We wanted to give our customers a high-touch one-on-one environment where they could engage with our brand in a physical space.” Given that Moda is an entirely e-commerce business, its success in the physical retail space is surprising, but much of it can be attributed to brand consistency and Santo Domingo’s exacting tastes. “We have had the benefit of designing our showrooms after the e-commerce boom, so we were able to create our experience specifically for a woman who is accustomed to shopping online and finds department stores or boutiques a bit old fashioned and time-consuming,” she says. “Our space and point of view is ever-changing and exciting and we try to communicate that in everything we do.”
An interior view of Lauren Santo Domingo's new Moda Operandi showroom in NYC
The new showroom emanates a fresh and modern vision. Elegant bespoke design can be found throughout the space. Santo Domingo commissioned New York–based designer Samuel Amoia, to make the malachite consoles, while in the entry visitors can eye an intricate Dimore-studio chandelier. Visitors will find countless objects sourced from Santo Domingo’s various homes in Paris and New York. “I love the pink Vladimir Kazam sofa. It’s everything I love, modern but timeless, sophisticated but fun,” she says. And while the showroom blends in with its surroundings on Madison Avenue, on the inside, Santo Domingo’s attention to detail is apparent. “I fall in love with things easily, so it’s important to do my homework. I check the quality, provenance, price and practicality before I purchase everything. I prefer not to make mistakes or have regrets which takes a lot of effort.” Greenery, which emanates throughout the showroom, is the work of Brooklyn florist Saipua transforming the space into a true retail garden.
Another look inside Lauren Santo Domingo's showroom
Santo Domingo’s modern vision is similarly found in the de Gournay wallpaper that dresses the walls of each room. She approached Gournay’s Hannah Cecil Gurney directly for the paper. “I went to meet with her for business, but we ended up becoming good friends and planning trips, and it was actually Hannah who suggested we just put the wallpaper in the panels and not on the entire walls – it looks amazing.” Visitors can find a de Gournay catalogue in the showroom for clients, which has sold well and encouraged Moda’s recent ventures into home products. “Home is an emerging category for Moda. We tested the waters this year with exclusive tabletop capsules with Cabana and Julia B which did exceptionally well. We’re looking to expand our home offering in 2018.”
A close-up of the intricate decor displayed in the Moda Operandi showroom
Even as the mother of two young children, Lauren – like the rest of the world’s fashion elite – is constantly on the go but credits much of her ability to balance work and her personal life to her team. “No day is ever the same, especially with my travel schedule. At this point in my life though, I know what I am good at and what I enjoy. I try to organise my time accordingly. The Moda Operandi team is world class and I would trust them with my life, and in a sense, I do.” It’s with this attitude that Santo Domingo and Moda are launching a programme called The Platform to support new and emerging designers.
With dozens of designer friends who also retail their collections on Moda, it’s hard to distinguish the line between personal and business. “No question gives me more pause then at the airport when the customs officer asks, ‘Are you traveling for business or pleasure’ I always answer, ‘Both!’ Having been working at it for nearly 20 years, my best friends are either directly or indirectly involved in my daily professional and personal life. My worlds are so intertwined it’s hard to separate the two.”
Jewellry by Carla Amorim
As we wrap up the shoot, Santo Domingo dons an intricate embroidered blue kaftan. She tells me how she and the rest of the women in her family wear kaftans when vacationing in her husband’s native country of Colombia. “I think it started when my father-in-law brought back several from a trip to Morocco, and now, it’s just a thing we do when we’re in Colombia – they’re so pretty.” Lauren looks as though she was meant to wear it – perhaps a good omen for her as she and her team look to expand Moda’s presence in the Middle East and establish a local showroom in 2018.
By appointment only, 24 E. 64th Street, New York; 212-727-7120. Modaoperandi.com