When Ed Burstell, the vice-president at Henri Bendel, decided last year that it was time for Stephen Burrows to make a comeback, there was only one problem: He didn’t know how to find him. Burrows, the fantastically popular designer of Diana Ross–ready dresses and jumpsuits, had all but disappeared since his days as resident couturier to the Studio 54 and Max’s Kansas City set. (His first boutique was actually catty-corner to Max’s, on Park Avenue South.) But his signature style, free-form dresses with patchwork and soft, lettuce trims, was popping up in current collections, and vintage dealers couldn’t keep up with demand for old Burrows pieces.
Burrows, it turns out, was uptown: on Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem, knee-deep in plaster. After enduring a roller-coaster career of extreme highs (Bergdorf’s! Bloomingdale’s!) and lows (really bad business deals), he’d undertaken the renovation of a brownstone with an old friend, Carola Polakov, whom he met through Halston. The plan? She and Burrows keep a floor each, and the rest becomes a small hotel. “It’s not a bed-and-breakfast exactly,” he says with a laugh, “because I don’t make breakfast.” Also, thankfully, Flirting With Disaster–style B&B practices won’t be in effect: no dust ruffles or needlepoint, and you can use the phone whenever you want.
All the housework certainly hasn’t distracted Burrows from his resurgent fashion business. Henri Bendel could hardly stock enough of his rainbow-sherbet dresses to satisfy its customers. As Burrows presented his fall collection last week (his second show since his rediscovery), floors were being sanded at 76 Edgecombe. “I think it’ll be ready by the end of the summer,” he says. Just in time for the international fashion press – already giddy at the prospect of visiting ” ‘Ar-lem” – to book rooms for Fashion Week. For anyone who’s sick of running into Calvin at the Mercer, spotting Burrows carrying a bag of groceries would be, as they say, a real fashion moment.