When Melissa Ventosa Martin, the founder of the online marketplace Old Stone Trade, and Patricia Voto, the designer and founder of the women’s wear line One Of, were introduced by a mutual client this past spring, the two felt an instant kinship. “I immediately DMed her on Instagram — very professional,” said Ventosa Martin, a stylist, creative consultant and former magazine editor whose three-year-old retail platform highlights handmade clothing and accessories from artisans around the globe. Soon after, Voto, 35, whose designs are all made to measure, invited Ventosa Martin, 44, to her New York apartment and, within that first visit, they’d come up with a plan for both an evening wear collaboration and an over-the-top launch party that would double as a holiday celebration.
“We wanted to convey the warmth and exuberance of a big family gathering combined with the elegance of Gilded Age New York,” said Ventosa Martin of the event, which took place on a Tuesday evening at Voto’s home and atelier on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. To that end, they used personal heirlooms as a starting point for the décor: crystal glassware and vessels from Voto’s great-grandmother Margaret Magdalena Gray, who was a seamstress and model in the 1920s, and lace tablecloths and silver serving pieces passed down by Ventosa Martin’s great-aunt Marion. Marion — who studied at Juilliard and took Ventosa Martin to the opera when she was a child — served as the unofficial muse for Old Stone Trade’s evening collection, which includes a hand-stitched kimono gown by Sara Sakanaka of the Brooklyn-based line Considered Objects and a tuxedo jacket by the Manhattan men’s wear brand J. Mueser in addition to Voto’s contribution, a black chenille opera coat and a black wool-linen off-the-shoulder cocktail dress. Her pieces, produced in New York from deadstock Italian textiles, are all custom fitted and available in extremely limited quantities — there’s only enough fabric for seven of the dresses and two of the coats.
The night before the party, Ventosa Martin and Voto gathered to polish silver and iron linens. When the guests arrived, they stepped into a magical world of dramatic gelatin molds, towers of fruit, copious cakes, coupes of champagne and gleaming silver bowls of punch. Both hostesses dressed in keeping with the old New York theme, Ventosa Martin in a 1920s black satin dress with jet beading that belonged to her husband’s great-grandmother and Voto in a vintage kimono top with an Old Stone Trade corsage and a voluminous black floral skirt from her own collection. It was a night, said the designer, “worth dressing up for.”
The attendees: The hosts invited friends and supporters from the fashion world and beyond, including the stylist Becky Malinsky, 39, who writes the “5 Things You Should Buy” newsletter; Jalil Johnson, 24, of Saks Fifth Avenue’s fashion office; the illustrator Joana Avillez, 37; the restaurateur and chef Clare de Boer, 34; the stylist Bailey Moon, 31; and Xavier Donnelly, 31, the creative director of Ash hotels.
The drinks: The bartender St. John Frizell, a co-founder of the restaurant Gage & Tollner in Downtown Brooklyn, made a Kir Royale cocktail with C. Cassis blackcurrant liqueur and served up holiday punch with Great-Aunt Marion’s silver ladle. The latter was a mixture of brandy, rum, port wine, maraschino liqueur, sparkling wine and citrus simple syrup. “Maraschino, to me, gives it a 19th-century flavor,” said Frizell, who chilled his brew with a giant floating ice ring he’d made in a Bundt pan.
The music: Nora Brown, an 18-year-old Yale student and banjo player, performed a set of four traditional Appalachian songs midway through the event, alternating between a 100-year-old instrument and one that her father had built. The hostesses chose Brown, they said, because her music — like their own brands — is centered on the idea of passing down heritage craft.
The table: The interior designer Alexis Brown used floral- and botanical-print textiles from the brands Décors Barbares and Braquenié for the tablecloths and napkins and also laid out some antique lace linens to complement Ventosa Martin’s and Voto’s heirloom pieces. The florists Claudia Codron and Sarah Bacharach provided the arrangements of peonies, ranunculus, carnations and parrot tulips. They also foraged upstate for pine, holly and maple tree branches to use as garlands.
The food: The food stylist Katya Ekimian’s wobbly, colorful jellies and towers of cranberries, strawberries and pomegranates served as the centerpieces of the main dessert table. Caroline Schiff, the pastry chef at Gage & Tollner, provided the other desserts, including pink meringues, a sugar-coated layer cake and a flaming baba au rhum. “Desserts are so transportive,” she said. “More than anything, they can put you in a time and place, bringing back memories or evoking a certain time period with nostalgic flavors.” For a savory treat, Celine Yousefzadeh, the founder of the culinary events and caviar company CY Kitchen, provided a kilo of golden osetra caviar accompanied by mini chive biscuits, crème fraîche and potato chips.
The conversation: Guests were grateful for the opportunity to get dressed up. “I’ll take any excuse to wear a gown,” said Jeauni Cassanova, 29, an archival fashion collector and co-founder of the jewelry brand Isshi, who wore a one-of-a-kind floor-length dress by the New York-based designer Guvanch Agajumayev. “I mean, this is what New York is all about!”
Two entertaining tips: Ventosa Martin credits her mother-in-law with teaching her the importance of preparing in advance. “I’ve turned into the kind of person who sets the table the day before,” she said. Meanwhile, as guests filled her home, Voto was trying to go with the flow. “It’s easy to be obsessive about how people handle your things,” she said, “but it’s a sign of a good time if there’s a little bit of mischief. Things happen.”