The RHoNYC’s GBFF is celebrity stylist Derek Warburton and I’m sure you’ve seen him around town, usually involved with some type of charity like the Bottomless Closet. He also runs a fabulous internet series called Derek Loves Shopping. We got to interview him last year when he hosted a brunch to support local businesses. This time we ran into him as he hosted the opening celebration of Housing Works’ Hell’s Kitchen store. This time we discusses both his role in reality TV (interview below) and his new role as the face of Housing Works.
Known for their ultra-fashionable merchandise and as the go-to thrift shop when looking for that amazing find, Housing Works has been committed to ending the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness. They believe that all people have the right to a rich and empowering life. Since 1990, they have provided services for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS in New York City and beyond. Housing Works was also the first charity to land in Haiti during the earthquake massacre.
As you can imagine, the gala was all fabulousness. Celebrities and socialites showed up to show their support, signature bubblegum alcohol drinks were served courtesy of The Works, Desserts by Tawny Ong was there providing guests with a taste of their yummy cookies and cream cake, and of course you were allowed to shop the store’s newest merchandise. I picked up a sexy leather handbag and novelty jewelry box decorated with one of my favorite little animals, a dragon fly (I refuse to call it an insect) for an attractive $16.00.
The shop instantly became packed, they expected 200 guests and 500 showed up, so you can image. However, after about an hour and the bubble gum drink sneaking up on everyone, nobody cared, the music by DJ Chopps was good and who can ever be in a bad mood when surrounded by shopping opportunities.
Guests included Richard Vorisek (the President of Housing Works), Malan Breton, pop singer Christine Elezaj, Real Housewife of New York Alex McCord attended with husband Simon van Kempen, Ramona Singer, designers John Bartlett, Malan Breton and Loris Diran, Project Runway’s Kevin Christiana and Jack Macenroth the NY Sartorialist, Cognac Wellerlane was there filming, Bravo’s Andy Cohen, High Society’s Paul Johnson Calderon and Malik So Chic, and Marc Jacob’s Brazilian hunk of a hubby Lorenzo Martone.
The event was a success having raised over $6,000 and as the new face of Housing Works, Derek Warburton will begin to bring a greater awareness to the causes behind the charity. He’s been doing HIV/AIDS outreach since he graduated High School. “It was what jump started my fashion career” he says, “My first fashion show that I produced and styled was in 1997 for AIDS RESPONSE SEACOAST in Portsmouth NH. I raised enough money to send 15 newly diagnosed survivors to a camp to help them deal with the emotional duress of what was to come. That experience changed my life.”
And just how did he get the gig? “I first heard of Housing Works just like any New Yorker as a fabulous chain of Thrift shops that donate all the proceeds to AIDS.... little did I know. But then I was approached by one of Housing Works Board members to film Derek Loves Shopping at one of its locations.” The two were clearly a perfect match. Derek points out, “I try to live by a mantra... Help, Teach, Inspire, Love and have Fun...Housing Works is that philosophy! When I really learned what the Housing Works does, I couldn't be more thrilled to be involved…when you are living with HIV it is a lifestyle and you have to adjust to how you feel about it. Housing Works has also taken a forgotten community and given them hope!”
Recently, Derek filmed a documentary that takes place at the Housing Works clinics and will soon be virally distributed, so be on the look out for it! I asked him how was his experience while filming, because one can imagine the emotional impact an experience like this would have on anybody. “It was heart wrenching but at the same time inspirational. We got to speak with patients, I served food, shared stories of hope, but the most beautiful story was with the Director of the facilities Dr. Valty. She is a Haitian American and her parents were killed in the disaster that struck Haiti not 3 months ago. She and Mr. Charles King (the CEO and founder of Housing Works) flew down, buried her parents and started rebuilding an HIV clinic and administering medications and treatment the VERY NEXT DAY!!”
Here’s a Housing Works ad featuring Derek Warburton and his mission as the new spokesperson.
VIDEO: Derek Warburton featured on the Housing Works Ad
And of course, we couldn’t resist but to ask him a few questions about his new role in Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York City. Here’s a short Q+A where we discuss Real Housewives and fashion.
So, are you enjoying being part of Real Housewives of New York?
I enjoy joining the girls on the show!!! It was very fun to film and I had a great time. My favorite part of course was to film with my BFF Alex McCord. She is VERY supportive of all of my community programs and actually helps out on the HOW TO BE DEREK FABULOUS program that I sponsor at the Bottomless Closet. Of course, there is the drama too. Oh the DRAMA..... we try to stay clear, but it never happens does it??? The rest of the season you will see how I just try to support my friend and make new friendships like with Ramona along the way... but of course so far all everyone wants to talk about is Jill and how I feel about her... GOD BLESS HER, I hope she is the subject of editing and that she is not really homophobic. I am a HUGE Jill fan and I was heartbroken over the comments. Being the face of the NY HRC I would hope that she would have the same message as they... to love and accept all diversity.
How did you land a role on the RHoNYC?
Alex McCord and I became very dear friends over the year. We met casually then we ended up knowing all of the same people. When the show was starting to film the new season she asked me to come on. It is a reality show and our on camera relationship is what we are really like together off camera. She is one of the most dear people I have ever met with a very true heart. MY 19 year old brother moved to NY from New Hampshire where we grew up and has become a part time nanny for the boys. They took him into their home and made him feel like part of their family.... that is love!!!!!
What's one fashion tip you can give a budget conscious fashionista with regard to their wardrobe?
Buy your look and not a trend. I have a very specific look, which of course has become controversial.. hahahaha .....but I shop for my look and I always buy on final sale or resale for that matter. End of season is the best time to buy that black blazer, your white shirt or those Christian Louboutins.... When it looks like you it doesn't matter when you get it because it will always be yours.
Who inspires your fashion style?
No one person really inspires me. I have a group of brands that work on me... YSL, Johnny boots are always a staple I have in almost every color, I love the Gucci tunics, Costume National button downs and Old Navy tank tops... if you see me in a simple tank 9 times out of 10 it is old Navy...
*ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF EDDIE GAROU PHOTOGRAPHY.