Michael Shvo vs. the World

LOCATION: Can you describe how you connected with Philippe Starck, who’s designing the new Gramercy condo on East 23rd Street?

SHVO: We go through a strategy-research process that normally takes, I would say, anywhere from two to three months. And during those two to three months, all the critical decisions of the product are made.

Such as?

Such as, what’s the concept behind the building? Who is the team to work on that building? In other words, in order to create that concept, who is the right architect, who is the right interior designer—who are all the right people that you want in this mix in order for it to be a winning project?

In the Starck project, we had a very specific buyer in mind. We came to the developer; we said, “This is our idea—this is the kind of buyer we want to target.” And the buyer is not necessarily a demographic. We don’t believe that demographics are what people are separated into today; someone who’s 20 can feel like they’re 60, and someone who’s 60 can act like they’re 20. It’s more about the psycho-graphic; it’s more about how they shop, where they eat, what they do when they travel.

We have an entire team in-house today, and this is what they do: They do what we call “strategic research.” We first put together a profile of whom we want to market to, and then we create the product. We don’t first create the product and then go out and try to look for people to come and buy.

Do buyers understand this marketing?

I think the whole magic of what Shvo does is not about “Does the buyer get it?” The buyer gets it if he buys; if the buyer has to dissect to pieces what we do, then I’ve failed. The buyer needs to walk in here and feel that it’s a flawless experience. [The Observer interviewed Mr. Shvo in the sales office of his new project at 650 Sixth Avenue.] He needs to feel he wants to be here, that he’s falling in love.

If I can compare it to a man and a woman, if I’m a man and I’m looking at a woman, I don’t want to look at her and say, “You know what? I’m falling in love with her because her hair is red, and because she has green eyes and she talks about this.” I want to walk in and fall in love—and I don’t want to think why we’re falling in love.

And what we create, I think, are projects that people fall in love with.

Michael Shvo vs. the World