Richard Chai Reveals His K-Pop Obsession Over Charitable Cocktails

Like most people, I like to unwind with friends and drinks after a day in the office. That’s why an invitation to cocktails with Richard Chai at the Dream Downtown on Tuesday evening was right up my alley. So, as soon as I closed my laptop, I headed over to the Meatpacking District with our own Hilary George-Parkin.

When we arrived at the Dream Downtown’s Electric Room, we were literally greeted with drinks. The creations were part of Chai’s collaboration with EFFEN Vodka. In January, the designer and vodka company started a few charity projects to benefit the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).

Their latest philanthropical endeavor features three different (and strong) cocktails with fashion-y names like Cucumber Sartorialist, and a dress designed by Chai that will be worn on a red carpet event, and then auctioned off with the proceeds benefitting DIFFA. The statuesque Hilary Rhoda was modeling Chai’s confection, which was just as stunning as the brunette herself.

“It was inspired by the clean lines of the bottle,” Chai told me about the pleated dark gray gown. “I thought about the purity, simplicity, and symmetry of the bottle, and the fact that it’s hand-crafted. So all the pleating is done by hand, and it’s really intricate, graphic, and architectural. Then I thought about Hilary, who I knew would be wearing it. She’s someone that I’ve known for quite some time, and she’s obviously insanely beautiful. If you know her, she’s amazing, grounded, down to earth, smart, and dynamic.”

When I laughed and said that I didn’t know the model personally, Chai took ahold of my arms and directed me towards Rhoda. Eek! But I brushed my nervousness off, and two seconds later, Rhoda and I were bonding over her gorgeous gown and her custom-made Jill Golden earrings and cuff. Hey bestie!

Chai was holding a cocktail, but I had to ask if he actually drank EFFEN. You know how designers or celebrities are spokespeople for certain brands, but don’t really use them? Well, that’s not how Chai rolls. “If it’s not EFFEN, then it’s wine. Or sake, I’m quite Asian in that way. But no, I really do like drinking EFFEN on the rocks.” Hardcore.

Speaking of being Asian, Chai and I were pretty much the only Asian-Americans in the room. That was probably the only thing I had in common with the designer — until he admitted his love for Korean pop music. “When I was in Parsons, I had this joke with all my Korean friends,” he laughed. “We said that if we never make it in fashion, we can always move to Korea, and become pop stars because we have good style, which is all that matters if you’re gonna be a pop star. There’s an inner Korean pop star in me.”

Chai obviously never made it as a big K-pop star, but he still has his eyes and ears on the music scene. “I love 2NE1!” he explained cheekily. “They’re kind of the ones that make me smile, I think they do it really well. Big Bang‘s cool too, but I’m definitely more into the girl pop bands. The Wonder Girls are cute, but musically, I actually really like 2NE1. They’re the ones that do it the best, and they’re the ones that I think would have the most fashion cross over. I’d love to maybe take them out of their outrageousness, and do something more cool. Like bring them down a bit. I’d love to make them more sweet.”

Check out pics of the party below.

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