Friday, October 27, 2006

Starry Starry Night...

As always, the stars were out in force at last night’s Fashion Group International 23rd Annual 'Night of Stars', honoring ‘The Visionaries’, held at Cipriani 42nd Street. Each year it seems the highly anticipated sold out event has as many star honorees as star presenters and this time was no exception. The retail legend, Neiman Marcus Burt Tansky received the Superstar Award and Star Honorees included Carolina Herrera, Yves Saint Laurent’s creative director, Stefano Pilati, Marni’s designer, Consuelo Castiglione, and the popular, charismatic and talented couple Ruben and Isabel Toledo. The Star Honoree, Beauty, was Aerin Lauder, the Star Honoree Journalism was Robin Givhan, and the Star Honoree Architecture was Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The Humanitarian Award was given to Timothy Shriver, and stylist to the stars Rachel Zoe (who seems to be every place you look these days) received the Fashion Oracle Award. Star presenters included Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Mariska Hargitay, and Anne Hathaway.

And since the evening is all (well, almost all) about fashion and style, who’s wearing what is always on everyone’s mind (including mine). No doubt, we are in a period where ‘anything goes’: long is always considered elegant and dramatic, and pants are always a fabulous option (especially when they’re worn by someone tall and beautiful like French journalist Anne-Sophie von Claer of Le Figaro who chose narrow black pants and a simple black top to put under Stefano Pilati for YSL’s white crochet cocoon-like knee length cape from fall 2006).

But what hit me was that it seems the big story is short for evening, including black tie events like FGI’s Annual 'Night of Stars'. Just how short one goes should depend on many factors, including age, body type, shape of legs, and the idea of what is appropriate. But there certainly were a number of young and not so young women wearing extremely short minis, including Elle’s Style Director Isabel Dupre in Stefano Pilati for YSL’s gold sequined mini dress (for the record, with her thin frame and long legs she certainly pulled it off). Stunning model Alek Wek could also ‘pull off’ her metallic red short one-shoulder toga dress.

There were also designing women in very short dresses of their own design (natch). Behnaz Sarafpour was in short silver sequins and Nanette Lepore wore a short black chiffon dress edged in beads that was also worn by another guest. By the way, Nanette said she loves short so much now, (and going forward for next season), she admitted. “I’m buying all this vintage and I’m chopping it off”. There was also Joanna Mastroianni in a short (but not too short) black dress accessorized with her own marabou hat and ornamental clutch bag. The designer, who I first met in the 80’s when I was her editor at Harper’s Bazaar has evolved from doing primarily special occasion wear and evening wear and is now designing a complete collection of “funky” clothes and accessories from day to evening.

When I asked The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan (clad in an understated elegant black knee length dress by Dries Van Noten), how she arrived at what was obviously an important decision, she laughed and said that actually, “it was quite complicated. I wanted to be appropriate, I didn’t want to wear long, I wanted to be comfortable, and I didn’t want anyone to say anything mean about me the next day in the paper.” I assured her that her wise choice would practically guarantee that.

By the way, while seeing who’s wearing what is always fun, the dinner is always delicious, and the award ceremony is, of course, the highlight and ‘raison d’etre’ of the evening, one of the best parts of the night is the cocktail hour, which gives guests an opportunity to speak with a lot of different people and catch up with old friends they haven’t seen for awhile. I bumped into Meryl Green, who I originally met when we were both young editors at Harper’s Bazaar in the mid 70’s. She is now creative director of www.stylesight.com, a website that she described as “awesome” and a “facilitating mechanism for the design industry” with which to filter and share information.”

Speaking of information, cocktail parties like this are also a way to get a lot of information within a relatively short period of time. For example, it occurred to me after looking at a 2007 calendar that the Jewish High Holy Days will be unusually early next year and, in fact, Rosh Hashanah is the evening of Wednesday, September 12, and Thursday, the 13th (the dates that always coincide with New York Fashion Week for spring). I had been unsuccessful in finding out the schedule since it is early and nobody has been able to confirm the exact dates yet. So, when I spotted James LaForce in the crowd (if anyone would know, it would be James), I asked what he thought would be the scenario. His take was that Fashion Week would most likely start one week earlier than usual (right after Labor Day). As he put it, “In all my years working on shows, I’ve always known the industry to be observant of the holidays and to be careful not to set up the week so that there would be a conflict.”

I also had a lovely conversation with Russell J. Nardozza, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, of Geoffrey Beene who I had not seen in awhile and who talked about the company’s major reorganization since the death of Geoffrey Beene several years ago. “The focus is on licensing now, since we closed made-to-order in December and we’re not manufacturing any longer” he said. He also told me that the vast Geoffrey Beene archives (about 1500 design pieces) are being meticulously maintained and organized in the West 57th Street atelier that had been used as Geoffrey’s showroom and a location for his shows. The archives, dating from 1963 to 2004 include Einar’s collections in 2005 (he is now designing for Reem Acra) and jewelry which is being sorted through and appraised and entered into a database. “We are not yet sure where this will all find itself”, but he seemed to be enjoying the journey. He also heaped praises on the young woman (a graduate of F.I.T.) who is entrusted with the responsibility of organizing and appraising the archives.

And I chatted with Linda Fargo, the fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, who was wearing a beautifully designed knee length black dress from Rodarte. I asked her if she thought the talented young women got a ‘bum rap’ with Cathy Horyn’s dismissive, three sentence review in The New York Times this past season. She agreed with me and, in fact, told me, “I still have that review on my desk and I looked at it today, and I really think they got a bum rap not getting the CFDA Award this year”. We have a really nice business with them and we consider them couture, but they are a crossover with who they attract as a clientele. You could put them near Prada or Marni, they are really designers to watch. The craftsmanship is amazing.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

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