Glam is the Chinese restaurant rager where Timothée Chalamet and Cardi B hang out

What is glam? Is it the subtle Instagram flex of eight Cartier Love bracelets jangling on your wrist? Is it setting your Seamless filter to “$$$$” and ordering a huge plate of sashimi to your hotel suite?  

Artist DeSe Escobar, who throws the monthly Glam party at the lower Broadway daytime restaurant-cum-party palace China Chalet, believes it’s a lifestyle that’s a little more accessible. “I wanted to avoid this whole concept of the ‘party monster’ or the ‘club kid’ aesthetic and define a new theme in New York that’s more up to date with the times,” the Southern California native explains over the phone. “I wasn’t really feeling this whole vibe that people associate with nightlife in New York, which is that very over-the-top, costume-y kind of makeup and scenery.” Escobar felt that the city’s young, diverse downtown scene needed something a touch more casual. She teamed up with stylist Kyle Luu and model/actress Fiffany Luu to form the Glam Committee, and they took matters into their own hands.

Each Glam party has a different theme, but none of them fit anyone’s preconceived notions about what a themed party should, or could, be. Their promotional videos—co-directed by Ada O’Higgins—are often risqué and shocking, and always mind-boggling and intentionally vague.

In the gonzo promotional video for last Halloween’s “Tiny Murder Mystery Ball,” which Escobar says was inspired by the popular Instagram Tiny Kitchen, shrill synths and shrieks ring out as a woman uses a teensy razor to cut off another woman’s nipple, fake blood and all. A tiny bow-and-arrow punctures a woman’s thigh. The model Seashell Coker’s throat is slit, and the video ends with a tiny candelabrum being placed between a man’s firm butt cheeks.

“We try to avoid very obvious themes,” Escobar explains. “Like, in December we would never do a Christmas theme. Being able to use our own imagery to promote the party and have an identity outside of other parties has been really effective.” And given that Glam has quickly become one of the most popular underground parties in the city since its inception in 2016, attracting New York’s finest fashion upstarts and Instagram peacocks—as well as bold-face names like Timothée Chalamet, Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann, Cardi B, and Alexander Wang—the subversive approach seems to be working.

“It’s really cool that we have this space where celebrities can come in, but our guests never really invade their privacy,” Escobar says of the inclusive nature of Glam. And it’s true, you may find yourself rubbing elbows with an A-list celebrity while in line for another vodka cran. “Something that I saw that was missing from parties in New York was that things were very divided—you know, there were gay parties, there were straight parties, but the goal of Glam was to combine the best of New York City in one space with a scene that’s not so pretentious.”

At Glam, there’s a pervasive feeling that “everybody knows everybody.” Even if you don’t know anyone at the party personally, you’re definitely following someone there on Instagram.

I attended my first Glam—“The Horny Ball”—last month. When I pulled up to the otherwise quiet FiDi block, I was greeted by a typically formidable line. The door is nonchalant, though—unlike other downtown parties, everyone is welcome, with no bottle service or velvet rope shenanigans. The cavernous venue has options: grab a drink and lounge in one of the red leather booths, or walk through the narrow, mirrored hallway to the sweaty dance floor. “I like the fact that there’s a space where you get to dance and a space where you sort of just get to hang out and socialize,” Escobar says when describing the versatility of Glam’s home base. “The struggle of New York nightlife right now is being able to find a good venue, and I feel like China Chalet is one of the last really good spaces that’s still a bit underground and doesn’t have too much security and restrictions.”

Things picked up around midnight. I floated through the party, dazzled by one girl’s high drama fur coat and kitten heels, and intrigued by another’s sleek athleisure sweatpants. Glam’s laissez-faire atmosphere encourages everything from radical runway looks to Fashion Nova.

The left-field ethos of Glam lures the crowds in, but as with any good party, it’s the music that keeps them there. Glam’s secret weapon is the stellar rotating cast of DJs, including DJ BeBe, Mistervacation, Sadaf, and Juliana Huxtable. “The music is always very sexy,” observes Alex Lopez, a.k.a. DJ BeBe, over email. “The sound isn’t specific but it is definitely curated, and you will rarely hear just techno beats or something.” Whether it’s reggaeton, pop, rap, industrial techno, or even the occasional top 40 hit, Glam’s DJs consistently create their own universe. “People go crazy when I play an emo throwback like Panic! At the Disco or Paramore,” Alaina Berry a.k.a. Mistervacation explains. “There’s always somebody twerking too hard, so the sound system will sometimes shut off momentarily.”

As for the future of Glam, Escobar and the Glam Committee have already taken the party to Los Angeles and collaborated with huge fashion and art brands (the recent Telfar by Glam afterparty is a prime example of this proposed cultural takeover). Escobar tells me about plans of expanding overseas and keeping this momentum going. And all of these forthcoming efforts will ultimately play a part in proving the party as more than just a monthly get together, but as an amorphous, shape-shifting brand. “I think the most important thing about Glam is that ‘glam’ doesn’t mean one specific look or brand name,” explains Lopez. “Everyone has their own personal glam.”

Glam embodies an outsider perspective. The party represents the latest emergence of classic downtown attitude, an essential and endangered quality in this gentrifying metropolis. At the end of our phone call, I ask Escobar how she’d respond to people who swear that New York nightlife is dead. “Come to Glam,” she offers. If my foray into the party’s dizzying aura of celebrity, fashion, cutting-edge music, and old-fashioned hedonism is any indication, she’s spot on.