Inside the Wild World of Lighting Company Apparatus

Dina Litovsky

Apparatus Studio has built a business through cult of personality and some rollicking parties.

The invite said the theme of the night was Vienna 1903. But inside the darkened Midtown Manhattan headquarters of lighting company Apparatus Studio, it was more like 1993 New York City. At 10 p.m. on the last night of New York Design Week in May, a bearded man wearing a pinstripe suit; sharp, patent-leather stilettos; and a seriously smoky eye leaned into a masked man. They were wedged between a bar and a circular leather sofa and stood under bronzed, ornate pendant lights—created by the party’s hosts. “This is like a fashion party in the ’90s, before design parties got so corporate,” the bearded man said. “I heard Boy George is here.”

“Is he the guy in the turban?” asked his friend, a hulking, muscled guy wearing a long, sheer spaghetti-strap dress. He reached up to the pendant light to look at the tag. His lips pursed to form a “not bad” frown.

The two strode on their high heels into the other room, where sweet incense, secondhand smoke, and a top note of passed weed coming led under high ceilings. A large, multibulb chandelier that resembled fringe hung over the main bar. The crowd—mostly male, mostly clad in shiny leather harnesses, sparkly turbans, some in demi-drag, some seminaked—parted as singer Joey Arias entered. Her gravity-defying, corded hat, which was the shape and size of a table lamp, arrived on the dais first. “I just love Apparatus, don’t you?” the entertainer cooed. “These boys know how to throw a party!”


Guests at Apparatus’s Werkstätte Disco party. Courtesy Dina Litovsky

This is how things tend to go in the world of Gabriel Hendifar and Jeremy Anderson. The “boys” (a former fashion designer and PR rep, respectively) founded Apparatus in 2012, after they arrived from Los Angeles. They’d brought along a light they’d created for their dining room. Friends saw it; friends ordered it. Hendifar named it the Twig, and a company was formed: luxury lighting with an aesthetic both raw (midcentury Italian is a reference) and high glam (so is Dynasty) made by two cool guys. By mid-2013, the design world had caught on. In 2014, the duo were often out and about dressed in au courant layers of Dries Van Noten and Margiela (and, er, considerably less dressed on their private Instagram account). The fashion world began to take notice and started sending invitations—as well as placing orders. By 2016, they had cachet and cred and firmly occupied that highly desired sweet spot in the fashion and interior design Venn diagram.

In just five years, Apparatus has created a signature light (the $28,000 cluster of hand-frosted glass orbs named Cloud) and landed major clients like the Marlton and Ludlow hotels, and private clients such as Jennifer Aniston and Naomi Watts. Now, as the company moves into furniture and ceramics, Apparatus employs more than 40 people in its nearly two-year-old headquarters (formerly painter Philip Taaffe’s studio). Apparatus has also become a reliable thrower of parties. Make that Parties—capital P, themed, with guests wondering days later what happened and how soon they can come back.


Hendifar’s office in the Apparatus Studio; The brass- and-porcelain Lantern 3 pendant, $26,000. Courtesy Wichmann + Bendsten Photography / Apparatus Studio 

As Arias sang “Strange Fruit,” Hendifar and Anderson (who’ve been together for seven years) stood at the back of the room, just off the terrace and next to a trio of men in Revolutionary War uniforms and a woman wearing what most resembled an articulated-plastic Issey Miyake handbag. The couple wore cascades of inky black chiffon, jet beading, and eyeliner. As Arias bowed, the designers were assaulted with camera flashes, air kisses, and breathless praise from a leather-clad Greek chorus. The refrain: “People don’t have parties like this anymore.”

They really don’t,” Hendifar agreed. “People want a reason to dress up—and they want someone to tell them to do it. That’s why we do this.” That, apparently, is the reason he and Anderson send out engraved, dress-coded (this year: “lacquered”) invitations; open up the doors of their headquarters to more than 1,000 guests (clients, friends, design-world peers and luminaries); and create a dance floor in the production department, where the DJ sets up turntables. The pair first had the idea for a themed celebration two years ago, when they showed in Milan during Salone del Mobile for the first time. “We danced under a 15th-century chandelier,” Anderson remembered. But—and this is important to the guys—this party was not branding. Hendifar cringed at the thought. “That’s what’s wrong with nightlife,” he said. “We love creating experiences that make you feel things—creating whatever euphoria is.”


The brass-and- suede Metronome table lamp, $4,800; The resin-and-brass Segment 6 console, $29,000. Courtesy Adrian Gaut

They did acknowledge that the buzz generated by the parties helps them. This event had a name, Werkstätte Disco, that dovetailed with their new collection of lighting, inspired by the early-20th-century Austrian collective Wiener Werkstätte. “If someone sees something they like, we hope they come back and buy it.”

Hendifar said they’ve been throwing parties since coming to New York, but when they moved into the 10,000-square-foot space in 2015, they decided to grow their parties with their business. Right then a pink neon sign above the bar came to life. “The dance floor is opening,” Anderson said with a sly smile as he headed to dance. “Gabe and I have some Upper East Side clients, and we want tonight to be their wildest party of the year.”

The neon arrow pointed to a tunnel where long patent-leather fringe lapped at their faces like tentacles. The dance floor opened up, bathed in pink light. Moby’s “Feeling So Real” played. On the walls were mood boards for the upcoming collection. In the corner, a man in a sparkly turban with cherry-red lips danced with ’90s club fixture and performance artist Amanda Lepore. Boy George? He looked up at a bronze fixture in the shape of a wishbone, with soft bulbs at the three ends. He looked at the tag, ripped it off, put it into his satin clutch, and got back to dancing. apparatusstudio.com

 

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