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2 Dec - interview + intro with Freehand NY’s very own Chris Milette

New York

We’re not sure what we would do without Chris Milette. As executive assistant at the Freehand New York, he’s a vital part of keeping all aspects of the hotel running — that includes The Shoppe, our ever-evolving retail space, where Chris started as an attendant. Now, Chris plays a big role in curating the Shoppe’s collection, which — in honor of Freehand NY’s second anniversary — will host its second pop-up with House of Intuition, the popular LA-based spiritual goods company. We sat down with Chris at the hotel to talk about his career trajectory, the songs he listens to on his commute, and what it takes to make a hotel like this one run.

Freehand New York: How did you come to start working at Freehand?

Chris Milette: I started working at Freehand because my friend’s husband knew Bruno [Former GM at Freehand NY ]. I was recommended to him for The Shoppe. I was hired as a Shoppe attendant and look at me now!

FHNY: Give us a quick rundown of your day to day. You interface with a lot of different departments. It’s a lot!

CM: My day-to-day can be very unpredictable because of the nature of my position and the nature of the business. Mondays are usually a heavy reconciliation day because I’m capturing everything from Friday through Sunday. I check the mail daily and distribute it. Tuesday and Fridays, I have a bi-weekly report that is due. I also have a monthly report that is due on the last day of each month. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll honestly help anyone who asks, and I also try to be in The Shoppe as much as possible so I can see first hand what’s working and what’s not. I try to speak with every department in one way or another every day, but usually it happens anyway organically.

FHNY: What is your favorite thing about living in New York?

CM: My favorite thing about living in New York is the culture. The clubs close at 4 a.m., but the subway is always running. People are always minding their own business and you rarely see the same person twice in the streets. I also really love New York City weather. My favorite season is Winter. I love layering clothes!

FHNY: Top 5 favorite songs to listen to while on the train to work?

CM: “Thirst” by Ravyn Lenae; “Di Mi Nombre” by Rosalía; “I Don’t Care” by Eartha Kitt;
“Who, What, When, Where, Why” by Dionne Warwick; “Touch In Mine” by Esperanza Spalding. Also literally anything by Chaka Khan. If I start my day off with any of these, then I’ll definitely be in a good mood.

FHNY: Top 10 favorite books?

CM: I don’t read as much as I’d like to, but my top 10 favorite books are: “The Color of Water” by James McBride; “Becoming” by Michelle Obama; “Rejuvenating the Body…” by Deepak Chopra; “Workin It!” by RuPaul; “The Giver” by Lois Lowry; “Don’t Block the Blessings” by Patti LaBelle; “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury; “The Cheerios Playbook” – Lee Wade (THIS COUNTS!); “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. Also, does Vogue count? I have every issue from the day I turned 21.

FHNY: Tell me about how you think about curating The Shoppe.

CM: I try and pay attention to what people come in and ask for, but I also try and find things that I like personally, but know would complement The Shoppe and its customers.

FHNY: How did you come to discover House Of Intuition?

CM: When I started downstairs as the executive assistant, The Shoppe had already been going for about 5 months, and a lot of the selected merchandise in the shop had already been determined by the previous director of creative and culture here at Freehand NY. It was actually Cooper [Cheatham, Freehand NY’s opening director of creative and culture] who had discovered House of Intuition and thought the brand would be a great fit for the Shoppe.
I don’t know what it is about NY but people love candles here.

FHNY: Do you think the current trend of witchy rituals and their accessories helps to direct the curation of the shop? I bet that there has been a surge of people testing out attaining spiritual empowerment since Trump got elected…

CM: Definitely, and also people pick up the candles because it says the thing that they WANT right on the front of them — like “money.” Who doesn’t want money? Healing, creativity, and success are all very, very popular choices. But what makes or breaks a product in the Shoppe is its aesthetic appearance. And THAT is something that House of Intuition accomplishes.

FHNY: How much control and freedom do you have over what direction The Shoppe takes? Is there anything that you want to do at Freehand that you haven’t been able to make happen yet?

CM: There are a lot of steps involved in getting something approved, and there are various things just in terms of the corporate structure of this hotel that can make moving on stuff slooooooow. That and storage space are big factors. As in, we don’t really have any so that affects who I can buy from because of things like order minimums and actually storing product.

FHNY: You went to Pratt — what was your major?

CM: I went for Art and Design Education — my goal was to become a teacher. I also considered becoming an art therapist. I only went for 2 years and then started working in different places that eventually led me here.

FHNY: Where your natural and learned teaching skills really come to use!

 

Interview and photos by: Alison Poole