Tie guy. Fashion consultant. Reclined dining advocate. We learn firsthand how the Robert Burke Associates’ VP sets the mood each day.
“I didn’t know about Honey Bunches of Oats until like two years ago – this is some good stuff right here!”
Kwesi Blair answers the door in a terrycloth robe. His walk-up apartment on a Chelsea street laced with brownstones is bright, and charismatic in the sense that everything inside begs for further observation. “My husband is a high school teacher, so he’s out of here early,” Kwesi tells us. “This is my time to hang.”
Originally from South Carolina, Kwesi is the Vice President of Business Development at luxury retail consultant Robert Burke Associates, where he works with a list of impressive brands like Charvet, Marc Jacobs and Target. Prior to that he worked as a footwear buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue. “I like to think I have good taste, but I’m not the most design-centric person,” Kwesi says. “So my job allows me to be involved in the fashion world without being directly associated with design everyday. It allows me to be creative, but in slightly different ways.”
So, how does Kwesi get inventive when he has the house to himself? First he puts on music. “It’s such an important part of my morning,” he says. “It could be a Radiohead day, an Outkast day… today seems like a D’Angelo day… smooth and easy. The music I play in the morning can actually set the mood for the rest of my day.” He brews a pot of Crop to Cup coffee – a gift from his brother-in-law, it’s the same blend served at his wedding – and pours cereal into a green ceramic bowl. “I didn’t know about Honey Bunches of Oats until like two years ago – this is some good stuff right here!” Kwesi’s laugh is big and bright. He maneuvers himself into a patinated chair by the window. He eats, drinks, and scans the web, catching up – as he says – “on everything I missed while I was sleeping.” The chair itself has a story: “My husband, Jordan’s parents were moving out of their house… We had only been dating for a bit at that point, and I was like ‘Hey, I don’t want to overstep my bounds here, but maybe we could get that chair…”
After breakfast, Kwesi shaves with Barbasol cream in a full lather. (“I shave when my face starts to get itchy – maybe once every three or so days.”) He then applies Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream Moisturizer, (“I have really dry skin so I need a heavy moisturizer for the winter.”) and strides to his closet, which is packed with dress shirts of every color and rows of ties. “For a while, I wore only bowties – maybe that’s the Southern gent in me. I have to wear a tie most days, so I have a pretty serious collection going. I tend to really like ties that other people think are ugly… like this floral one…” Kwesi always plans his outfit for the day the night before. “It may not be the final outfit,” he smiles. “But it’s a good jumping-off point.”
Today: gray flannel dress trousers and a blue and white, banker stripe shirt. He knots up his charcoal tie in the mirror. Then there’s the matter of his socks. “The last 4-5 years I’ve only been wearing really colorful socks. I love that they’re so easy to find now. My friends and family know it’s the perfect gift to get me.” His favorite variety? “A basic, pink sock.”
“It may not be the final outfit. But it’s a good jumping-off point.”
He sits on the corner of the coffee table and puts on his shoes. Also a routine. “As I’ve become an adult, my morning has become something I’ve grown to enjoy. It’s so rare to be alone, especially in this city. So this time is sacred in a way.” He then stands up and pops on a double breasted jacket and patterned scarf. The gentleman realized. It’s time to head out the door. He’ll usually walk to the train at 7th Avenue or take a cab when he’s running behind. When we say goodbye on the front stoop, Kwesi’s Southern Hospitality extends to his parting words. “Come back anytime, guys!” Then a reconsideration. “Well, I mean… not like every day.”
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