Photography by Eric Isaac

Cleo Davis-Urman

Fashion Director, Saks Fifth Avenue

| Central Park South

When your first real job turns out to be assisting well-known stylist Rachel Zoe, then the equally notable Brad Goreski, there’s little place else to go but up. Indeed, native New Yorker Cleo Davis-Urman is no fashion neophyte— with a personal style that runs the gamut of bubble gum robe coat to marabou-decked pumps, or, in her words, “polished with a pop,” she’s a master at pulling off the pieces most of us wouldn’t dare bear. Fittingly, she joined Lauren Santo Domingo’s Moda Operandi team where she oversaw scouting for emerging talent before co-founding Tinker Tailor, her own e-comm site which allowed shoppers to customize designer pieces to their liking. (If you aren’t picking up on Davis-Urman’s penchant for the new and idiosyncratic yet, keep reading.) Now the head of fashion at Saks Fifth Avenue, she’s responsible for pinpointing the best and the brightest up-and-coming and established labels around the globe, which means next time you’re looking for that “wow” moment— whether it comes in dichromatic kimono coat or kaleidoscope party dress form— you can thank Davis-Urman for making your wardrobe a little more special. Here, she sits down with CITIPHILE to reveal her little black book on NYC.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: While I love my neighborhood, so do the hundreds of tourists who flock here daily which makes getting into a restaurant incredibly difficult. When I want a quick and casual dinner, I frequent The Todd English Food Hall (MAP ITx) for a bowl of spaghetti bolognese. On special occasions, Marea (MAP IT, BOOK ITx) for their Rhode Island oysters and a dirty martini.

COFFEE OR TEA: A cappuccino at Via Quadronno (MAP IT, x)— it tastes like Italy, but better because it’s in New York!

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: I love everything about Bobby Flay’s Gato (MAP IT, BOOK ITx)— the warmth and drama of the space and a menu that makes me want to order everything all at once. At the moment, I’m hooked on the kale and mushroom paella, an unexpected  fiesta of tastes and textures. 

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: A Kier Royale at Bemelmans Bar (MAP IT, x).

GIRLS NIGHT OUT: Paul’s Baby Grand (MAP IT, x). The eccentric décor (which recalls a Wes Anderson film), eclectic music and delicious cocktails— like the Acapulco Sunset (tequila, lime, pineapple and habanero)— make Paul’s the perfect setting for a girls’ night out.

AFTER-WORK HAPPY HOUR: A glass of wine at The Bowery Hotel’s lobby bar (MAP IT, x) or, when weather permits, its courtyard.

BEST BRUNCH: I take brunch very seriously so choosing one favorite is difficult. However, Café Clover (MAP IT, BOOK ITx) has recently become my go-to place. Not only is the atmosphere to die for, but the menu offers a bevy of healthy options (hello quinoa pancakes with baked apples!) that feel incredibly decadent, but are almost guilt-free.

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING: Central Park, any time of day or year.

HEALTHY STAPLE: SoHo House (MAP IT, x) for gluten-free avocado toast with extra chili flakes!

GUILTY PLEASURE: A truffle grilled cheese and tots from Melt Shop (MAP IT, x).

NY’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: Some things are best kept secret; however, I have recently discovered the artisanal espresso and cappuccino bar at Christie’s Auction House (MAP IT, x). I can now satisfy my art and caffeine fixes all at once… did I mention it’s free?!

FIRST THING I MISS WHEN I’M AWAY: Walking!

REGULAR AT: I am currently enjoying my childhood fantasy of living in Bergdorf Goodman (MAP IT, x)… well, almost!  A stone’s throw away from my apartment, the prestigious store has become my home-away-from-home. I visit the John Barrett salon for the perfect high pony, refuel with a Gotham salad (diced chicken breast, ham, gruyère, tomato, bacon, beets, hard-boiled egg and lettuce)—hold the dressing—at BG (BOOK ITx), touch up my face at the Charlotte Tilbury beauty counter and visit every floor in-between for “market research.” 

DATE NIGHT STANDBY: Il Buco on Bond Street (MAP ITBOOK IT, x). It is the perfect combination of cozy and casual and has a menu conducive to sharing…

DELIVERY GO-TO: I have Lili’s 57 (MAP IT, ORDER ITx), a gluten-free Chinese takeaway spot, on speed dial. There is nothing an order of their steamed pork dumplings can’t fix.

TO SEE AND BE SEEN: The Polo Bar (MAP IT, BOOK ITx), this hot-spot is a place to “see and be seen,” but I go for the cheeseburger! 

To ESCAPE AND UNWIND: The galleries on floors four and five of the Museum of Modern Art (MAP IT, x). When I need a change of scenery, an attitude adjustment or simply want to clear my head, I pay a quick visit to my friends: Monet, Matisse and Marilyn at MoMA. No matter how long or short my visits are, they serve as the ultimate escape and reminder of how lucky I am to live in a city with such incredible art at my fingertips!

CLOSET CHECK: My style can best be described as polished with a pop. Fashion and what I wear is very personal to me and I am most drawn to clothing that is unusual and tells a story. My favorite store and place to get inspired in the city is New York Vintage (MAP IT, x). “Doyenne de Vintage” Shannon Hoey and her amazing team run this mecca for fashion— a carefully curated selection of vintage clothing and accessories, an archive of twenties’ pieces straight out of Daisy Buchanan’s closet and the world’s largest collection of rare bird feathers just because! If you’re really lucky, you can visit the second floor which is where you can see the museum-worthy NY Vintage archives, as well as Hoey’s three adorable young daughters who are always willing to dish out styling tips.

BEST HOST/HOSTESS GIFTS: The Strand Bookstore (MAP IT, x). I could spend hours in the New York institution’s stacks, selecting the book that best suits my host’s personality. Whether it’s a vintage copy of a classic or a decorative coffee table book, this gift is both personal and timeless because, let’s face it, being well-read is always in style…

BEAUTY BLACK BOOK: For color, I go to Daisy Diaz (x) from the Oscar Blandi Salon (MAP IT, x). Her magic technique has everyone around me, including my mother, convinced that I am a natural blonde! For special occasions and events, I only trust Dana Rae Ashburn (x) with my makeup. Dana always makes her clients look like themselves—only prettier!

FIT PICK: A mix of classes and private training sessions with Maddie (x) from Dance Body (MAP IT, x). Not only is this the best workout in all of New York City, it is the most fun! Bring friends and a sense of humor.

ULTIMATE NY MOMENT: When I was a first-semester freshman in college at Barnard (and aspiring to work in fashion), I found a cell phone in the back of a taxi. I contacted the owner to arrange to return the phone. Our meeting place? 4 Times Square… then Condé Nast! Said owner was a fashion editor. As if the countless “thank you’s” and good karma points weren’t enough, I left the drop-off with an offer to return to Condé Nast as an intern at a major fashion publication. Only in New York! CP

Cleo’s New York

From L to R: First Row: Pasta at Marea; Inside SoHo House; Art at SoHo House; Melt Shop grilled cheese. Second Row: A booth at Café Clover; Central Park; Gato; Davis-Urman.

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