Jamie Drake on Designing for Michael Bloomberg and China’s New Millionaires

Lunch with a New York-based interior designer who has gone global

I was joined for “Lunch” at Michael’s today by Jamie Drake and Michael McGraw, who besides being two of the best-dressed men in any room in New York City, have both parlayed their impeccable taste into formidable businesses.

Michael helms his own PR firm, The McGraw Agency, and represents an impressive array of tastemakers including Jamie, who is among the most well-known and respected interior designers here and abroad. When I found out both were free to dish at Michael’s today, I jumped at the chance.

Jamie Drake, Diane Clehane and Michael McGraw

I first met Jamie when he was being honored by Fashion Group International at the Annual Night of Stars gala a few years ago (Full disclosure: I’m on the creative committee). Best known for creating environments that are both glamorous and modern yet always reflect the individual client’s needs and tastes, Jamie is highly sought after by the well-heeled set stateside and around the world–most notably in China. His clients here in town include Michael Bloomberg (more on that later) and Madonna.

Unlike many other “name” interior designers who, after decades of hard work, opt to pull back and rest on their well-appointed laurels, Jamie is busier than ever. Next week, he leaves for China to attend The China International Furniture Fair in Guangzhou, where he will unveil a line of furniture especially designed for the Asian market under the label Jamie Drake for Theodore Alexander.

“I’m super excited!” said Jamie of his latest collaboration with the High Point, North Carolina-based furniture company. The new collection features pieces with “high lacquer and gilded finishes” and other “embellishments.” Sounds swanky, doesn’t it?

Jamie’s expansion plans into international markets also include the opening of 11 (!) Jamie Drake for Theodore Alexander stores in Asia next year. He’s also just signed “a letter of cooperation” with one of China’s largest development firms with interests in Asia, the United States and Europe. “Many of my designs are better suited to a global customer versus the American heartland customer,” he told me. And besides, “Asia is minting 100,000 new millionaires a year–that’s 100,000 new customers looking for high-end design.”

That’s not to say things aren’t going great guns stateside. In 2015, Jamie took on a partner, Caleb Anderson, and merged Drake Design Associates and Caleb Anderson Design to form Drake/Anderson. When I asked Jamie what prompted the partnership he told me, “I did it because I wanted to ensure we would continue to grow,” adding the only thing he didn’t want to grow was his stress level. “I wanted to take on a partner–not sell the company.”

The firm was named to the Architectural Digest AD100 list in December. Jamie had been on the list for many years, but it’s no small accomplishment to have the newly formed partnership make the list since so many firms drop off the roster from year to year.

Caleb, who first worked with Jamie as a college intern and then returned a few years after graduation for a few years before opening his own firm, was on “the short list of five possible candidates,” said Jamie. “I assumed he was going to say ‘no,’ but I took him out to lunch and when I asked him, he said, ‘Oh my God, I would love to do that.’ It’s been a wonderful merger.”

Drake + Anderson recently finished two apartments in the One57 building on 57th Street, perched high above Central Park, and are currently working on a full floor at 56 Leonard Street, in the iconic Herzog & de Meuron, building due for completion soon, as well as a 12,000-square-foot residence in Bridgehampton and a large apartment in the Baccarat residences.

The firm also has projects in Los Angeles, Texas, Florida and London. A soaring stock market has the well-heeled set spending as much as they ever have on their sprawling homes and posh penthouses. “It seems we’re prospering from things we abhor,” said Jamie between bites of his burger, referencing the results of the presidential election. “The decrease in regulation,” he noted, has made his clients optimistic about their bank accounts.

I was particularly curious about one of Jamie’s clients–Michael Bloomberg. Jamie is too much of a gentleman to decorate-and-tell, but he did reveal that the former mayor of New York City, who Jamie has worked with “non-stop” for the past three decades, is a “superb client and dear friend” whose tastes are “eclectic.” So what’s it like working with Bloomberg? “He’s open to new ideas and trying new things.” Now that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Speaking of Gotham’s glitterati, next Monday Jamie will join Bunny Williams and the rest of crème de la crème of the city’s interior design community at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House President’s Dinner benefiting the Kip’s Bay Boys & Girls Club, to be held at Cipriani 42nd Street. The glitzy event kicks off the show house season for folks who get really excited about milling around looking at fancy furniture in fabulous settings. Count me in! Jamie is one of the directors of this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House, which opens May 1 at 125 East 65th Street this year.

Jamie, who is vice chair of the design committee, had high praise for Bunny, “This event has raised over $1 million dollars to help 10,000 kids in the Bronx in after-school programs and social services,” he told me. “It’s been very inspiring to work hand in hand with Mrs. Williams.”

Then in May, he’ll be shoring up support for his Alma Mater at Parsons School’s annual fundraising dinner where none other than Rihanna  will be honored along with Neiman Marcus.

Oh, and in his spare time, Jamie oversees a myriad of licensed products including faucets with THG Paris, carpets with Stark Carpet and bath accessories with the luxury brand Labrazel. “You can’t spend $250,000 to $300,000 on a bathroom renovation and then use a $4 molded plastic tissue box cover.”

1. It’s a family affair: Dan Abrams with his father attorney Floyd Abrams and sister Ronnie Abrams.
2. Chanel’s Susan Duffy.
3. Author Ed Klein.
4. Robert Zimmerman who I “Lunched” with last month and was nice enough to introduce me to his guest, Michael Bosworth, formerly deputy assistant and deputy counsel to President Barack Obama, where he oversaw domestic legal policy issues. Michael is currently teaching at NYU’s law school. No shortage of issues to discuss, I’m guessing.
5. Wayne Kabak and Lawrence Kudlow.
6. Andrew Stein.
7. Tracey Jackson.
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and a well-heeled gal we didn’t recognize. Anyone?
10. WWD’s Andrew Nodell.
11. Bob Friedman.
12. Michael Peterson and Michael Carlisle.
14. Cathie Black.
15. Anthony Weiss.
16. NBC’s Jean Dietze.
17. Sandow Media’s Adam Sandow.
18. LAK PR’s CEO Lisa Linden and former Bush administration pension agency head Charles Millard.
21. PR maestro Stu Zakim and ABCNews.com’s David Caplan.
22. Suzanne Dawson.
23. Gus Oliver.
24. Mitti Liebersohn.
26. Tech guru Shelly Palmer.
27. Jamie Drake, Michael McGraw and yours truly.
29. David Sanford and Lewis Stein.

Faces in the crowd: Producer Beverly Camhe ducked in after joining thousands of women who gathered at the Trump International Hotel on Columbus Circle to mark A Day Without Women. Bev tells me there’s a rally planned for tonight at Washington Square Park. All of this is part of The International Women’s Strike NYC. Sisterhood, as they say, is powerful. See you there.

Diane Clehane is Adweek’s weekly “Lunch” columnist, posting reports from Michael’s every Wednesday. Follow her on Twitter at @DianeClehane and reach her via email at lunch@adweek.com.