Detras Restaurant

We often hear prospective students asking “Can I enter NYSID without a portfolio and use class projects as my portfolio to enter a degree program?’
The answer is yes!
One of our BFA students, Alevtina Vinokur, a former English Literature major, began just that way, starting with the basic courses and moving into a degree. A few weeks ago, Vinokur won the prestigious Angelo Donghia Foundation student scholarship of $30,000 and another award from Gensler, the opportunity to intern at the firm and a scholarship of $2000.
Vinokur has interned at hospitality design firms, such as Champalimaud and Jeffrey Beers, and it was her design for a restaurant which garnered her the Donghia award.  Her restaurant, called Detras, is inspired by Elie Saab, a prominent fashion designer, whose dresses have fluid form, striking geometric shapes and precise tailoring. We interviewed her to find out more about her intriguing design and her future.


What inspired you to change and choose interior design as a career path moving from English Literature?
I have always had a strong passion for the arts – especially design, painting and sculpture. But I first had to embrace my philosophical side and pursue a degree in literature, which has always inspired and fascinated me. After a while I realized that enjoying all the creative diversity that New York has to offer but never participating wasn’t enough for me and going for a degree in design became a logical next step.

Can you describe your project for the Detras restaurant from the first inspiration to realization?
To be perfectly honest, it would be hard to do. It was one of those projects that took control over me and became live, evolving and changing space on itself. I had to obey and listen to what it wanted me to do. I struggled a lot even though I had the most amazing professor that supported and pushed me along the way. I’m sure that even now when it’s done I would be able to go back and change something, improve. You can never stop working on a project you love. But of course a lot of the designs came from how I perceived Elie Saab’s fashion and the process of creation a garment. In a way it is very similar to creating a space, an experience. It is definitely an art and I hope that answers your next question.

The multi-level of the restaurant gives a feeling of discovery and obscurity, which as you wrote, seems sourced more from ideas of clothing versus spaces. Do you follow fashion …do you see it as an art? What impact did the Donghia Award have on your sense of yourself as a designer?
Winning Donghia Award means so much to me not only because it is highly regarded, but because it reaffirms that I’ve made the right choice. It’s not always easy to follow your dreams and passions, but milestones like this inspire me to work even harder and of course it’s a great boost of confidence that a lot of the creative people sometimes lack.

What are some of your favorite spaces in New York City?
I feel very fortunate to live in a city where I’m exposed daily to almost every race, culture, and creed known to man. New York City has some of the most amazing architecture and spaces in the world and it’s hard to name a few. High Line, MOMA, Chelsea Galleries and installations in Park Avenue Armory always inspire me. As for hospitality my favorites are: Andaz Hotel, Thompson Hotel, Café Sabarsky, Saxon and Parole, Nobu, Boom Boom Room, The Modern, Public, Perry Street, ABC Store and ABC Kitchen. I’m sure I have missed so many!

What are your future plans?
That I will keep a secret, as a properly raised Russian I am very superstitious.

Phyllis Greer