And no, I don’t mean the U.S. Open tennis matches, but rather, fashion’s bi-annual marathon, New York Fashion Week, (which coincidentally, always coincides with the U.S. Open). And what a way to kick things off I might add. I’m referring to Wednesday’s glorious luncheon, sponsored by the Couture Council of the Museum of FIT, held at Cipriani 42nd Street, in honor of Dries Van Noten, who was the recipient of the 2009 Artistry in Fashion Award. And because the cool weather made it imperative to start getting into one’s fall finery, there were many interesting fashion statements on display, including many who opted for something by Dries Van Noten in honor of the well respected designer.
Among those who were in attendance: designers like Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Arnold Scaasi and Phillip Lim; social fixtures like Alexandra Lebenthal, Lauren Veronis, Barbara Tober, and Fabiola Beracasa; fashion stalwarts like Glenda Bailey, Hamish Bowles, Harold Koda, Daphne Guinness, Amy Fine Collins, Rosemary Ponzo, and Lynn Yaeger.
The wonderful event was well organized and to the point. After a brief introduction by FIT’s President, Dr. Joyce Brown, guests enjoyed a delicious Dutch inspired (Dries Van Noten is Dutch but shows in Paris) lunch of gazpacho, poached salmon wrapped in cucumbers, Belgian frites, and strawberry inspired deserts. Then there was a brief video, showing clips of past runway shows, which was a perfect reminder of why the designer is so deserving of his most recent honor. His work transcends trends and has nothing to do the vagaries of fashion’s seasonal ‘ins’ and ‘outs’. His clothes are simply beautiful and unique; they don’t demean or insult women, and are most of all, intelligent. Whenever I see a Dries Van Noten collection, I always think to myself, “Signs of Intelligent Life”. In a press release, Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, stated, “Dries Van Noten creates clothes of extraordinary beauty and originality. “His sense of color, print, and decoration are unequaled, and his clothes are not for one season. Like works of art, they continue to speak to us across time and space. He has created a unique personal signature, but at the same time, he facilitates the wearer’s individual sense of style.”
Then Barneys’ always entertaining Simon Doonan, a popular emcee on the fashion ‘circuit’, made his remarks. (FYI, it should be pointed out that Barneys New York was one of the first big stores to carry the decidedly un-commercial, avante garde designer’s creations many years ago).
In reference to the number of years both have been involved in the fashion business, Simon quipped, “we are both in the “Methuselah” category; we’ve seen each other go gray.” He then drooled over the “wicked fabulousness" of his clothes and introduced actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (a friend and customer), who took the stage wearing a dress by Dries. Sounding a bit shy and reserved, she admitted she was “a little nervous to be here” and noted that she is not necessarily thought of as a fashion insider though she does “like clothes a lot”. More specifically, she likes Dries’s clothes, and he has designed dresses for Red Carpet events, and her wedding gown.
She explained that after asking Dries to design her wedding dress, she received it just a few days before her wedding and was horrified when she looked at it and thought it was nothing like what they had discussed. But after she tried it on, she quickly changed her mind and decided “she had never been in a dress more beautiful”. She went on to say that she believes Dries knows intuitively how to make women feel sexy and beautiful. My tablemate, Lynn Yaeger immediately turned to me and said, “Dries is the furthest thing from sexy” to which I answered, “well perhaps not but after all, sexy is in the eye of the beholder”, to which she agreed. Actually, sexy is as sexy does.
Next up was Dries who is known to be rather shy and quiet. He told the crowd that “words are not my strong point so I won’t say very much.” “I’m very happy, very proud”, and he then thanked all of those who work for him, and especially his customers, who “make my dreams come true.”
Then it was time for a raffle of three items donated by Dries from his most recent collection (each guest had a coat check with a raffle number on her desert plate). When Simon took the stage with Iman to do the ‘honors’, he looked at the first ticket and said, “I assume Coat Check isn’t a name”. First was a grey bead embroidered layer necklace with ribbon closure; second and my favorite, was a clever and chic khaki-black bag-in-bag; and the third was a “beautiful black chiffon coat” which had Simon jesting, “100 nuns went blind shredding that chiffon.”
Last but not least, Liz Peek thanked her co founding chairs, Sarah Wolfe and Yaz Hernandez, gave special thanks to Glenda Bailey for her ongoing support, and noted that this has been a “very tough year for the fashion industry indeed”. She congratulated Dries Van Noten who is now part of a “growing list of designers picked by our very picky selection’s committee”, a list that includes Ralph Rucci, Alber Elbaz, and Isabel Toledo (she and hubby Ruben were in attendance).