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6 Innovators Shaping The Culture of NYC

The Editors | October 1, 2018 | People

From art and architecture to food and fashion, meet the power players who are changing the culture and cityscape of New York.

Derek Fordjour, Interdisciplinary Artist, Fordjour Studio


Peer out from the High Line or the roof of the Whitney this fall and artist Derek Fordjour’s (@fordjourstudio) “Half Mast” stares back at you from the facade of 95 Horatio St., where a series of public art installations have sprung up. No stranger to the art scene in our city and beyond, Fordjour symbolically addresses the issue of gun violence in America, particularly in schools, through his signature graphic portraiture, layering colorful images of students, law enforcement officials, absent figures and teddy bears and balloons that evoke memorials. Fordjour continues to make an impact on NYC with his Parade installation at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling (on view through January), which beckons visitors to explore the process of forging an identity with a wonderland of tunnels, found objects, music and textured collage artwork. His goal? For audiences to walk away with “an authentic experience.” More works from Fordjour’s creative mind will be on display at the Armory Show this spring.

Bjarke Ingels, Architect, Bjarke Ingels Group


Since opening a New York office in 2010, Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels’ (@bjarkeingels) firm BIG has won numerous cityscape-changing jobs. His current projects include 2 World Trade Center (that’s envisioned to tower 81 stories and feature boxy terraces that rise like steps), Via 57 West (the tetrahedral residential tower next to the West Side Highway), The Spiral in Hudson Yards (a 65-story skyscraper wrapped in a ribbon of lushly landscaped terraces) and The Eleventh (a pair of twisting towers farther down the High Line that’s similar to BIG’s residences in Miami). Outside of Manhattan, BIG is working on Google’s new headquarters in California and London; a modular school for WeWork’s new educational enterprise, WeGrow; a high-speed transportation system for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One; and a $2 billion campus for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Dylan Steven Geick, LGBT Advocate


With over 682K followers on Instagram, 18-year-old Dylan Geick’s (@dylangeick) voice is heard far beyond Columbia’s campus. The sophomore student wrestler just published his debut book of empowering poems, but he’s been using his keyboard for a cause since he was in high school in Chicago. The LGBT advocate, who takes to his YouTube channel and Instagram stories to share words of encouragement with the community, has big brands wanting to be a part of his positive message. This past year he starred in Equinox Fitness’ advertising campaign, Humans Who Committed to Something in 2017, and Dolce & Gabbana has tapped him to model.

Jaime Young, Chef, Sunday in Brooklyn


As a hustling chef in New York City, Sundays were Jaime Young’s only day off to explore his neighborhood and enjoy meals with family and friends. It was this special day of the week that inspired Young and partners Adam Landsman and Todd Enany to open Sunday in Brooklyn (@sundayinbrooklyn), a three-story sustainable all-day eatery in Williamsburg that prides itself on its welcoming atmosphere and fresh, simply delicious fare. A culinary luminary on the rise who has completed stints at Atera and Eleven Madison Park, Young aims to “provide a better standard of dining for a casual neighborhood bistro” and fosters a learning environment in his kitchen. “I assign mandatory homework to all my new cooks. I’ll buy them a copy of The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski and hand them a list of 80 influential chefs that I feel have changed the course of cuisine through time,” he says. “I think it’s important to look to the past for the future.”

Alex Poots, Artistic Director, The Shed


When Hudson Yards opens next year, it will be a hub for commerce, cuisine and culture on Manhattan’s West Side. The latter is due in large part to The Shed (@theshedny), a sovereign nonprofit institution located on city-owned property. Built from the ground up with some $500 million from a start-up capital campaign seeded by heavy hitters including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who gave $75 million) and the real estate developer and businessman Frank H. McCourt (whose recent $45 million donation garnered naming rights for The Shed’s main performance space), The Shed will be a place for creatives to commission, produce and present the full spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and pop culture. Spearheading the project is Alex Poots, who previously served as artistic director of the Park Avenue Armory and the Manchester International Festival.

Sander Lak, Creative Director, Sies Marjan


In June, Sander Lak took home the prestigious Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent at the CFDAs—the annual NYC gala where the international fashion community honors the best and brightest in American design. For those who haven’t been following the millennial’s overnight success with his 2-year-old label, Sies Marjan (that’s sold everywhere from Barneys to Net-a-Porter to the Seaprt District’s new 10 Corso Como), the award cemented the New York-based fashion designer as the one to watch. But Lak’s sense of color, proportion and texture didn’t come out of nowhere. Before launching Sies Marjan (@siesmarjan), the Dutch native held a five-year tenure at Dries Van Noten by way of Balmain in Paris and Phillip Lim in New York.