Lela Rose Cooks Dinner for 18—Just 24 Hours After Her Runway Show

“Well it’s only 18. The rule is: If it’s less than 24, I cook,” says New York-by-way-of-Texas designer Lela Rose. She’s talking about guests, not hours—because if we were talking hours … well, one suspects she’d have a generous rule for hours, too. One that would still allow her to be in the kitchen prepping Oysters Rockefeller in heels.

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Lela presented her fall collection at a luncheon at the restaurant Loring Place on Monday afternoon; by Tuesday afternoon she was in her art-filled Tribeca home preparing dinner for tonight’s party, which includes members of her team as well as Nordstrom buyers and friends.

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Lela Rose showed her tulip-embellished fall 2017 collection one day
before she hosted a dozen and a half of us at a dinner party. 

Based loosely on her just-unveiled collection—which was based loosely on tulips and what she sees as their inherent properties of beauty, hope and resilience—the evening was an opportunity to see Lela as Lela. Beyond her flattering peplum tops and fit-and-flares, she’s a woman who loves being with friends. An urban southerner thoroughly at home in the world.

And yes, at home in the kitchen. As we learned when her entertaining book came out, and as we experienced firsthand when we visited her last season, this is a woman who loves to host. She has silk chiffon oven mitts, for example, and a delightful way of kicking the oven door gently closed after checking on the roasting cauliflower.

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Tonight’s menu includes oysters and quail eggs with Champagne cocktails, then bossam, a rich, salty-sweet Korean pork dish served with kimchi and lettuce wraps. That perfect cauliflower got tossed with cinnamon, all-spice and fresh herbs—and all of this was offered family style on a Japanese-inspired table that lowers to become completely flush with the dining room floor when not in use.

“It goes up and down so easily, we do eat most of our meals there,” Lela tells me. “That kitchen table? I’m not sure we’ve ever used it,” she says, referring to a wood-inlay table with a herringbone pattern near the open kitchen. Lela and her husband Brandon designed the entire street-level, three-floor Tribeca apartment for themselves and their two children to make the most of meals, art, togetherness and good times.

“Everyone in New York wants an upper floor,” says Lela. “Not me. I like walking in off the street, right into my apartment. It feels more like a home that way, and during nice weather we love sitting out on the stoop and spreading out onto the sidewalk with our patio parties.”

The February temperatures prevented us from enjoying the de facto front yard, but instead we got Lela’s closet. Once one of us got word of the expansive and inspiring room-like wardrobe, all we had to do was mention it to the designer and she was walking off in that direction, beckoning all of us to come with her. Past, present and future Lela Rose collections hung among killer heels and gorgeous, artful accessories—and just a handful of hangers for Brandon’s shirts and ties.

At the end of the evening as we all said good night, we returned once more to the key words that informed next season’s tulip-filled presentation, and the night’s dinner table.

Beauty, hope and resilience. No matter what else we may feel these days, those ideas are easy to touch in to when we’re with friends, sharing meals and reveling in art, ideas and style.

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—Laura Cassidy

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