HBA’s Shayne Oliver and Desi Santiago Gamble Big

November 15, 2013 • Fashion



On the 17th floor of the W Hotel in East Midtown, something very odd is taking place. Two very large suites have been combined and morphed into a red maze. I see a large lit eye at the center of my path enticing me to come closer. The narrow halls are insanely crowded. People are either attempting to get into the next room or just loitering. I catch a glimpse of Alex Lundqvist. I think it’s Alex Lundqvist. The music is loud, and Lady Fag just passed me by. I don’t really know what is happening.

“It’s fucking crazy, right?” Desi Santiago says to me.

Crazy is an understatement.

You could easily call Desi Santiago an artist, but saying so wouldn’t do his work justice. The man is a true visionary. He has propelled the works of Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and Madonna to new heights. He has exhibited his own artwork, and collaborated with a slew of magazines.

The man is a creator.

So when W Hotels said to him: we’re giving you the space to create whatever you want; Santiago envisioned a casino in the dead center of Manhattan.

Casino Diabolique is a  multi-sensory experience utilizing light, sound, scent, object, performance, and games, with a soundtrack by Azari & III, scents by Tomas DeLucia of The Sense Society and lighting by nightlife-guru Seva Granik.

Beginning tonight through Sunday, the public is welcomed to enjoy free games of blackjack, roulette, pendulum, and tarot card readings.

Santiago enlisted the help of friend, and designer of Hood by Air, Shayne Oliver to dress all of the performers and staff. And if you’re familiar with his work, you know Oliver likes to go all out.

“I love his energy,” Santiago says about wanting to collaborate with Oliver on this project.  “I love his work, and how it’s existing in multiple spaces, of gender, of work, and sport, and uniforms, of high and low end, and culturally. And he is a metro boy like I am.”

Trying to find this metro boy among the swarms of partygoers is a challenge. “He’s over there!” someone yells, but I can’t see Oliver anywhere, only the back of a long-haired blonde person.

“Yeah, that’s Shayne.”

I should have known! Oliver’s Spring collection was all about dudes going drag. Which we loved by the way.

“Desi is a big brother, like in aesthetic kind of way,” Oliver says.

While Hood by Air is mostly worn by hip-hop all-stars, at Casino Diabolique all of the staff are supporting this edgy urban wear, including grandpa-like men.

“When I walked in here I was like ‘how did they get my stuff?’ and then I remembered,” Oliver says about forgetting that he provided the fashion gear, including the crazy Nike boots.

“But I think it’s totally cool” Oliver says. “It goes with all the obscurity going on in here.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Through Sunday, at the W Hotel, 541 Lexington Avenue, free. 

Read more:
Five Things That Would Make Hospitals Waaaaaay Cuter
The Weak Dudes of Prada Menswear

All Aboard.

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