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Fall Style

Most stylish: Brian Lesser and Stephen Sousa

By Luke O’Neil
September 18, 2011

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BRIAN LESSER

AGE: "TIMELESS"

OCCUPATION: RESTAURATEUR, CLUB OWNER

RESIDENCE: WESTON

> First piece of clothing that you were really excited about? Years ago I was in this boutique in SoHo, next to Sylvester Stallone, purchasing these blue suede platform shoes, and all I kept thinking was, “I have to have these as well.” I bought them, but when I got home the only thing I kept wondering about was why I bought them. I did wear them shortly for a while though. I think my friends got to me after a while. I wasn’t a big fan, but I happened to be next to him and he was going on and on about how cool they were.

>At your nightclub, Saint, which has reopened as Storyville, you encountered a lot of celebrities over the years. Was there anything you learned from them about fashion? Celebrities with an original sense of style -- the common thread was confidence. It was written all over them. It’s just the way they wear things and how they present themselves, whether it was Sting, Mick Jagger, or Kevin Spacey, confidence is really part of the wardrobe.

>What’s your day-to-day look like? Has it changed over the years? I’m pretty free to do whatever I want. I get to have an individual look; I don’t have to worry about trends. Whatever is comfortable or piques my sense of style. Honestly, my wife has a great sense of style; I reap the benefit of her fashion sense. My first decade after college was filled with 70-hour workweeks. I used to be in the hotel business. That left little room for creativity or style other than wearability in interesting suits and ties. I shop at Bodega, A Bathing Ape in New York City, and Alan Bilzerian, and create a mix-and-match style that’s very comfortable: a blazer, jeans ... I’ve got a great sneaker collection.

> What’s the worst trend you’ve seen at clubs over the years? Well, I can probably say the worst stuff I’ve seen is the whole Ed Hardy bedazzled era. That’s as bad as it gets. When we first opened Saint, we had a dress code of no jeans, no sneakers, so it was pretty formal for Boston at least. People dressed up to go out, that was the idea.

>Storyville has a pretty cool history behind it. Storyville is an environment where speakeasy meets nightclub. We’re pioneering a new trend in city nightlife. ... It’s two entities under one roof, a speakeasy with a great beverage program and good food intertwined with a state-of-the-art nightclub. Storyville lived back in the late 1940s and 1950s. It was one of the biggest jazz clubs in the city. Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Ella Fitzgerald all performed there. ... Storyville was located in our space where Saint was. We’re doing a modern incarnation of what Storyville would be today, what that would look like in today’s environment.
STEPHEN SOUSA

AGE: 47

OCCUPATION: PRINCIPAL AT ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN FIRM SOUSA DESIGN

RESIDENCE: BROOKLINE

>As a designer you have a keen eye for fashion. Talk about your sense of style. We are designers so we’re always looking at color, texture, and lighting. So how does that relate to fashion? It makes us more astute to fashion, I would imagine. I think we’re probably a little contemporary and casual, much like our work. I think my own personal style has evolved over the years obviously as I’ve gotten older, just as my design sense has changed as I’ve gotten more experience.

>You’ve designed notable bars and restaurants besides Storyville. Is there a common theme you try to extend throughout each of the properties you work on? Just like with our dress, we’re looking at reinterpreting the individual design spaces based upon collaboration with the owner. ... At Jerry Remy’s we reinterpreted the guest experience of visiting a sports bar. If you’ve been there, the finishes are different, and the textures, lighting, artwork are all different than what you’d see in a traditional sports bar. Temezcal is a reinterpretation of traditional Mexican decor. Gallows is a reinterpretation of an American tavern. That’s how we dress, reinterpreting styles or creating our own. Storyville is going to be a reinterpretation of the nightclub, stuff that’s different, sleeker, and 10 years older from when I last did the space [when it was Saint]. I’m sure my style is going to evolve a little bit there.

> Is designing a club anything like putting together an outfit that a 1,000 people are going to have to wear every night for years? Not necessarily sure it’s like that, but basically I would say the venues we create, they’re much like the experience of people dressing. We strive to create something that makes people feel comfortable, secure, and look good.

>What do you think of the state of design in bars and clubs in the city? The evolution of the hospitality industry design in Boston has made leaps and bounds over the past 10 years. Being so close to New York, the mecca of all hot concepts, Boston is holding its own. There’s some great stuff being built around here, not only from us. I think Towne Stove and Spirits is a great venue, Del Frisco’s that just opened up. You can see very sophisticated concepts and designs all through the city. Before we were always going to New York or Vegas, but we have that level of sophistication of design through Boston now.

Luke O’Neil can be reached at lukeoneil47@gmail.com.


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