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We’ve got a soft spot for fashion-industry scrappers, so we couldn’t pass up a chance to talk with the sharp gentleman behind HBO’s How to Make it in America—one Ian Edelman, born-and-bred New Yorker. They just wrapped their first season, and you can catch up through On Demand if you aren’t already a fan.

Kempt: In some ways, New York City is the real star of this show. Did you want to paint her in flattering way?
IE: The city doesn’t suffer fools. New York can grind you down. The question is how do you make it work for you. Even during those times when it’s not shiny and clean, when it’s just scruffy with a brown paper bag.

K: Does that mean New Yorkers handle life better than people in other cities?
IE: I live in LA now where you can have twice the space for half the money and it’s spring weather everyday. Living in New York forces you to adopt a kind of gritty, inner-city Zen that you don’t see in LA.

K: How do you achieve this inner-city Zen?
IE: It goes back to a place of tolerance. You have to not freak out when you’ve been waiting for a subway for 45 minutes and there is no air conditioning on the platform and it stinks and you’re late for a job interview and you’ve sweated through your shirt. These are the street lessons that you learn that hopefully add up to a bigger life lesson.

K: How did you get the SoHo loft parties in the show to look authentic?
IE: We scaled them to a real place. If I was young and hanging out downtown and I met people and they invited me to their apartment for a party, this is what it would look like. Some of the girls are cute, some a real girls, the music is great, the space is small, there are lots of plastic cups and beer bottles around. This is my life, this is where I’m at right now.

K: And the party photos that flash on screen?
IE: Self-referential party photography is a big part of what young people are doing. So we did a collaboration with Merlin Bronques from lastnightsparty. It’s a real thing that young people are doing in NY, so we used it in our storytelling.

K: These characters go to all the best clubs, eat at great restaurants, and party with creative, hip people. Is it possible they have already made it in America?
IE: Ah, good question. Unlike most people, they do have access to greatest city in the world. They’re young, smart and talented, and surrounded by their best friends. So, yes, I do think they are halfway home. But there is a certain financial success they are pursuing.

K: You must also have friends all over New York.
IE: My first best friend from nursery school lives at the Beresford on Central Park West. A few weeks ago he got married and had one of the only weddings ever at the Boom Boom Room.

K: And speaking of pursing financial success, how’s yours?
IE: One of my first jobs in LA was an assistant to Kirstie Alley. She had a yard sale and I sat out there with this crazy straw hat selling her stuff. My brother had to loan me money to buy a car. But on my 28th birthday, a friend bought me 28 scratch off lotto tickets, and I won $1,000. I finally got out of the Volvo and into my Cadillac.

—J.R.S.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Justin R. Silverman