A discotheque in the woods?

by Karina Coombs

George Wong and Victoria Elman.
(Photo by Karina Coombs

When Michael Kors describes you and your spouse as “fashion obsessed” on national television, being included in the Boston Globe’s “25 Most Stylish Bostonians of 2013” would seem an apropos follow-up. 

Victoria Elman and George Wong moved to Carlisle in 2011 from New York City where they had lived for more than a decade, trading urban living for a more rural lifestyle. Elman is an attorney and Wong is involved with contemporary art. Shortly before the move, the couple appeared on the ninth season of the hit show, Project Runway. 

Season 9, episode 8

Entitled, “What Women Want,” the episode focused on nine fashion designers tasked with creating an outfit for a female client they had yet to meet. The challenge? The designers would have to rely on each woman’s boyfriend or spouse to explain particular style and sensibility, which the designers assumed would be woefully incorrect. 

Wong, with a background in fashion design and an undeniable sense of style, was paired with designer Viktor Luna. The outfit created for and modeled by Elman placed in the top three. “We were a little opinionated,” laughed Elman whose edits helped create a winning look. “I like that the outfit is hanging in my closet. [It] reminds me of the fun we had being on.” The couple watched their television debut from Carlisle.

The call of the Deck house

“We fell in love with Deck houses,” said Elman, explaining how the couple ended up in Carlisle. While they had initially focused on Modernist architecture in Lexington so as to be closer to Boston, they ultimately reversed course. “We didn’t want to compare city living and decided to go the complete opposite route,” explained Elman. “[And] George wanted chickens [and] the land.” “I think we’re content here,” said Elman. “I’m really happy here,” agreed Wong. “I like new experiences.”

After years of living in small apartments in the city, the couple is enjoying their newfound space. Wong has been tending to the couple’s chickens, curing Prosciutto on their screened-in porch, and building some things in the home. “I have no idea how he does it, [but] it’s pretty great,” said Elman. “I think that comes from years of just being around artists,” said Wong of his construction skills. “Seeing them put on exhibitions and gallery staff who put up mounted exhibitions. They’ll fabricate anything.”

The art of fashion

Elman grew up on the North Shore and Wong is from New Zealand, but both ended up in New York City, eventually settling in Brooklyn. Elman received her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. She is currently an associate at the Boston law firm of Goodwin and Proctor, where she represents technical companies while also incorporating her personal interests in fashion and design. Before law school, Elman worked for a number of years as a vintage clothing buyer and still has a collection of pieces. “Several of my tech clients are actually fashion and beauty companies, which I love.” 

Wong initially studied fashion design, but over time made the move to art. Describing his humble beginnings from managing an artist’s studio to working as front desk reception at a gallery, Wong eventually went on to become the Managing Director of the Max Protetch Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. He is currently the Director of the LaMontagne Gallery in South Boston, created in 2007 by Russell LaMontagne. “I was glad to meet up with [Russell],” said Wong. “He had an influential gallery in the early 2000s in New York [and] is credited with reintroducing contemporary painting.”

Elman and Wong are also involved with the local art scene and have attended a number of events at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. “I’ve been involved in the arts for a decade so it’s part of the routine,” explained Wong. It was a photo taken of the couple at one of these events that brought them to the attention of the Boston Globe Style section and ultimately led to their selection in the 2013 list. “We love to get dressed up and wear crazy things,” said Elman.

Entreprenurial ambitions

While LaMontagne is successful, with both a local and regional reputation for contemporary art, Wong explained that the market is very different from that of New York. “This town is a tough nut for contemporary artists,” he said. “I think I’ve basically done as much as I could with the gallery.” Boston Magazine recently named LaMontagne the best gallery in Boston. “It was good vindication of my time there,” said Wong, who is transitioning out of his role at the gallery to focus on other endeavors.

“Managing galleries is what I was doing in New York pretty much my whole professional life,” said Wong. “I think when I saw myself moving up here I was going to try to venture to a different field.” Elman and Wong have discussed pursuing a more entrepreneurial role in the future with Wong taking on the creative role and Elman focusing on the details. 

“The timing has to be right,” explained Elman, “but we’re always talking about what can we start? What would young people who just moved here want?” While Elman imagines a discotheque in the woods (which would also provide her a place to wear some gold pants Wong recently purchased on eBay), her husband is firmly against that particular idea, but not that of a gathering place. The pair has discussed starting a restaurant with another local couple they befriended after moving to Carlisle. While they like the idea of something similar to Concord’s 80 Thoreau, both want a more casual atmosphere. 

Babies and Brooklyn

As parents of a seven-month-old daughter, finding an opportunity to meet other people in town is also a central theme for the couple in their early 30s. Wong and Elman recently attended a “New Baby Brunch” put on by the Carlisle Parents Connection and were pleasantly surprised by the turnout. “I see the stats when I read in the Mosquito [the number] of kids entering Kindergarten, [but] I was shocked at how many people were there,” said Elman. “There were probably eight to ten babies.”

The couple’s appearance on Project Runway has also helped them make local connections. Elman explained that when reading a Mosquito story about David Erickson and Gallagher Hannan of Black Brook farm they discovered the couple was also from Brooklyn. (See “Black Brook Farm growers return to their roots,” September 14, 2011.) Elman and Wong immediately drove to the Farmer’s Market to meet them. “Gallagher told us she remembered us from Project Runway,” said Elman. While Erickson and Hannan are no longer in Carlisle, the couples remain close friends. 

“Maybe some other couples will see us [in the Mosquito],” said Elman. “We’ll pay it forward,” added Wong. ∆