If you don't know the name Richie Akiva, chances are you're familiar with one of his world-famous nightlife establishments. As the founder of 1 Oak and Up & Down, two of New York's most frequented fashion party spots, Akiva has turned having fun and letting loose into a full-fledged business.
Born and raised in Tribeca, Akiva grew up around the creative and fashion scene, even starting his own streetwear-skate clothing line at the age of 15. When a close friend of his passed away (Davide Sorrenti, brother of fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti) a few years later, Akiva wanted to throw an event in his honor — an art and fashion exhibition-turned-rager attended by celebrities, models and musicians. Its success later inspired him to pursue the nightlife and restaurant industries as a career.
"Nightlife has changed tremendously," recalls Akiva. "It's a lot more accessible. It's become a lot more of a business than it was before. When I was growing up, it was more like a secret society. It was something to escape your everyday inhibitions. You would find a rave in some hole-in-the-wall, something that was crazy. That stuff is gone because the business of it."
But Akiva still aims to capture that old-school ambience of partying in New York, opening 1 Oak locations around the world, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Maldives, Tokyo, Mexico City and, soon, Dubai. Ahead of New York Fashion Week, we hopped on the phone with Akiva to find how he prepares for fashion's busiest after-party circuit. Read on to learn more.
What's your schedule like leading up to New York Fashion Week?
At this point in my life, I think every day is Fashion Week for me. Every day is pretty hectic. I'm bouncing from meetings to meetings and building projects and creating new concepts and ideas and expanding brands around the world. It's pretty intense, hectic and around-the-clock right now, even when it's not Fashion Week. But during Fashion Week, it gets a little bit more exciting.
How do you prepare for a whole week of fashion-adjacent after parties?
Honestly speaking, we do things pretty last-minute, but we have a huge success rate doing so. It's almost like we work better under pressure. You can give me three months to plan something and I'd rather plan it within a week, a week and a half. The pressure does something. We come in, we prepare, we look at what's going on and what's hot and what's not, and where fashion is going, and who is associated with what, and what brands are in the know and in the now. Then you offset it with music, because music and fashion go hand in hand.
Once a New York Fashion Week after-party is booked at one of your nightspots, how do you plan it?
A designer, fashion brand or fashion house will contact us — or we contact them because we have relationships with a lot of these people. Then I sit with my marketing team and we say, "Who can we get to perform? How should we program? How should we decorate?" It all depends on who it is, how much of an impact they want to make, what results they want to see and where they want to be.
For a party with Rihanna, I will transform one of my places ... it won't even look like Up & Down or anything like that. It will look like something that is just tailor-made and designed, and the production is [framed] around what she's doing and what her show is about or what her theme is about. We transform the place and then we do program some performances, and we also add little types of things — whether it's passed hors d'oeuvres, photo booths or dancers. Whatever the theme is, we try and capture that so you kind of walk into a different world. I'm from the old school nightlife. I try to stick with how I learned it, so I try to give people an escape. I try to organize my nights so people can come and just let their hair down, take their ties off and just let loose and be decompressed from their whole day of running around New York City.
What exactly makes a good after-party during Fashion Week?
That's hard to explain. I mean, if you could write out a formula and I could sell that formula, I'd be a rich man. It kind of just comes together. It's really about the vibe and putting certain things together and hoping that they work in sync and create this vibe.
Who are some people on your radar when it comes to booking cool acts or guests?
Migos is pretty hot right now. My boy Virgil [Abloh] of Off-White, he's killing it right now. These guys are making a huge impact in fashion. Rihanna, as well, and what she's doing.
What's the best way to get into an after-party, even when there's a guest list involved?
Get there early — around 11 or 11:30 p.m. — before the madness starts, before the crowd starts coming in. Because then you'll just get left out. If you're getting there early, you'll probably get in easier.
Do you have any kind of after-party etiquette tips?
My key tip would be to enjoy yourself and the night and not be so engulfed in social media or your phone or anything like that. Just live in the moment and take in what's going on and what people worked very hard to produce throughout that night because it does take a lot of work to put together.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.