David Copperfield’s big, enigmatic eyes — plastered on semitrailers — watch over me as I walk onto an unassuming property off the bright and bustling Las Vegas Strip.
The magician, who has a much lighter demeanor in person, greets me on this typically hot July afternoon, and we enter his invite-only museum of magic — which houses an astounding 150,000 artifacts.
At the entrance, in a flashback to the 1960s, is a replica of his father’s former New Jersey men’s store, Korby’s. Inside a mock dressing room hangs a man’s suit. With a pull on the tie, a secret door opens to what seems like a never-ending maze of Copperfield’s collections. The mysterious and massive space overflows with historic pieces, including Houdini’s straitjacket and water torture cell.
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A few hours later, a different door opens.
Standing at that entrance is designer Chloe Gosselin, Copperfield’s life partner. With their daughter, Sky, and a playful puppy by her side, Gosselin welcomes me into the home she shares with the magician.
While many traces of magic fill the 31,000- square-foot desert house, it’s dramatically different than the museum. Family photos sit atop countertops, and an elevator leads to Gosselin’s office and studio upstairs.
Her workspace is bright and open, with shoes displayed neatly throughout the room. It resembles an aesthetically pleasing Pinterest board — covered in material swatches, a rainbow of colored pencils and sketches sitting on top of a desk.
While the designer shows off her shoes, Copperfield is resting at the MGM Grand before he takes the stage at 7 p.m. for his first of two daily shows of his Las Vegas residency. “We live very opposite time schedules,” Gosselin said a few hours later on the ride over to see the second performance that evening. “He does 15 shows a week when we are here.”
Sin City is home base for the couple, who also have residences in New York and the Bahamas. Copperfield’s nights are filled with cheering fans, famous illusions and midnight museum tours.
Gosselin, by contrast, begins her days very early. She gets Sky ready for school and then quickly turns her attention to her 4-year-old brand.
Vegas, she said, is where she is most productive.
“During the day, David is at home, so we have time to share ideas on whatever we do separately in our jobs,” she said. “The back and forth is very much a part of our lives. We don’t sit down and say, ‘Let’s talk about work.’ It’s part of the way we live.”
It’s clear that both understand, accept and participate in each other’s passions.
“It’s hard. Shoes are a hard thing. What a choice,” Copperfield said back at the museum the day after our first meeting. “There’s a process to get a beautiful result. My work is the same thing. It’s creating something from scratch, and the end result has to be simple and pure. But getting there is difficult.”
Gosselin, who launched her eponymous brand in 2014, is slowly expanding the business. She was a 2016 finalist for the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize and is a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and is a finalist for Vogue Italia’s The New Talents showcase. In the past year, she’s consulted with Bionda Castana founders Natalia Barbieri and Jennifer Portman on sales and production in a girl-power-fueled team.
“The creative process is Chloe’s most preferred activity,” Barbieri said in an email. “She always has a notepad in hand, [as her] love lies in sketching and coloring at any given opportunity. She creates contemporary modern items from vintage-inspired pieces sourced primarily in NYC on her travels, and she is inspired by nature and the strong female forces that surround her.”
Spotted on celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson and Olivia Munn, Gosselin’s shoes are gaining more attention, and it’s showing through the numbers.
“Both our [Farfetch.com] and wholesale sales over the last 12 months have tripled,” Barbieri said. “Our key markets — Europe, USA and the Middle East — are [also] set to grow with the introduction of pre-collections. It’s growing a cult following.”
Through this crucial moment for her brand, Copperfield has also been a guiding light.
“Watching Chloe find her way and narrowing her focus while still maintaining the integrity of the reason she started [is what I’m most proud of],” he explained.
The idea of becoming a big-margin, made-in-China brand has been tempting, but Gosselin has stuck with her original vision: to create luxury shoes made by artisans in Italy.
“The world tells you what you have to do to fit in, and she just won’t do it. At the end of the day, [the brand] will last,” Copperfield said.
Gosselin added, “Beautiful Italian shoes aren’t going to go anywhere. They are here to stay. It’s not about getting in all stores right now. The strategy is not doing things too fast. We want to build longevity.”
Copperfield — whose success spans decades, with accolades and Emmys galore to prove it — knows what it takes to have staying power.
“My secret with my magic was accessibility to me. All the magicians before me wore top hats and tails. I came onstage, and I let them see my flaws and goofiness,” he explained. “With Chloe, people are drawn to her. It’s not about a shoe; it’s about a lifestyle and wanting to fall into a world. I tell her to put herself at the [forefront].”
This idea has resonated with Gosselin, who sees her 25,000 Instagram followers engage most with photos of her as well as shoe close-ups.
“The people like to see a glimpse of my life, family and creative process. It all ties together in the way we live as a family. Work and life aren’t separated,” the designer said.
While Copperfield’s input has been important, Gosselin still holds the reins.
“He’ll give me hints [of advice], and I listen — sometimes,” she joked.
Copperfield is open to Gosselin’s feedback about his own creative pursuits, too. Even though he is one of the most legendary faces in magic, he still suffers from occasional self-doubt.
“Every time you do something new and push forward, it’s glorious torture. I’m inventing new things each time with living, 3-D [aspects] that can fail and embarrass me in front of an audience, which is tough,” he explained.
Gosselin “doesn’t hold back” her opinions at all, according to Copperfield.
“He still has so many doubts, which is admirable, and it keeps him grounded. But sometimes I tell him to stop listening to people, even me. He knows what he’s doing,” she said.
The designer has also influenced his show in some inconspicuous ways. In one trick, he makes “Frank,” a 30-foot T-Rex skeleton, appear out of thin air and cozies up to it like a stuffed teddy bear. That’s inspired by Gosselin’s relationship and interaction with her horse, Milo, whom she rides as often as she can.
A third piece of this dynamic partnership is Sky. The 8-year-old has made a major impact on all aspects of her parents’ lives.
Copperfield’s show, for instance, is rooted in family, with kid-friendly storylines born around the same time as Sky. And for Gosselin, showing her daughter that success and effort align has been crucial. Plus, Sky’s getting a firsthand lesson on how hard work pays off.
“She knows the value, and she sees the work. She goes to his shows and my presentations,” Gosselin said. “The first time I saw my collection at Barneys, I brought her there. When she sees her mom’s name on the wall, she feels the joy in those things.”
Copperfield has brought Sky along for some of his big career moments, too — and recently took her for a trip down memory lane to his elementary school, where he performed in the fifth grade.
“The thing about Sky is, she has empathy for people. She doesn’t treat anyone differently,” said Gosselin. Copperfield chimed in: “We are lucky she’s a really good person. Maybe it’s your fault,” he said with a smile.