Remember the first day of school after summer vacation? The excitement tinged with stress and social anxiety that you felt? The French call it “La Rentree” — here in New York fashion circles, it’s known (less succinctly) as The Couture Council at the Museum at FIT’s Award for Artistry of Fashion luncheon. And yes, like everything else, New York Fashion Week’s kickoff has been long awaited for a return to normalcy.
Yesterday the illustrious Nordstrom-sponsored annual event, which honored Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of women’s collections at Dior, returned to The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center after traveling downtown last year to Cipriani South Street in a pandemic-lite scaled-back version.
Despite the utterly predictable sea of black clothing, the mood was ebullient, with approximately 500 guests converging on the Upper West Side landmark. The usual faces were in attendance – although some were more recognizable than others after their summer “spa” visits.
Fashion fixtures such as Nina Garcia, Fern Mallis, Jean Shafiroff, Veronica Webb, Derek Blasberg, Francisco Costa, Fe Fendi, B Michael, as well as socialites Jamee Gregory, Lauren Day Roberts, Muffy Potter Aston, Somers Farkas, Eleanora Kennedy, Julie Macklowe, and other members of the MFIT Couture Council were in da house as well as Pete Nordstrom representing his namesake retail establishment.
As you would expect, many guests wore Dior, whether new, vintage or perhaps Dior-inspired. Attire ranged from tulle skirts, fitted Bar jackets, dark denim pantsuits, little box quilted handbags dripping with the gold charm letters spelling out the name, signature toile de Jouy canvas totes, and J’adior slingback pumps.
One woman even had a pair of what appeared to be Christian Dior dishwashing gloves. Where’s Madge, the manicurist, to tell you that you’re soaking in Palmolive? I’m dating myself.
There was also a smattering of Chanel and a few lost souls who looked like they took a wrong turn at the disco (myself included in a neon green pantsuit which could and did stop traffic).
Cocktails on the second-floor veranda overlooking the giant square were delightful as the weather quickly turned from the oppressive heat of summer. A delicious lunch of avocado stuffed with crabmeat and chicken paillard, potatoes and chevre followed.
My table was full of political animals in and out of government, so naturally, the conversation flowed along with the wine. “Do you think they FINALLY have Trump this time?” asked one world-weary media site.
I’m sorry that I can’t tell you precisely what the response was since my eyes weirdly rolled so far into the back of my head that I temporarily lost my hearing.
After an introduction by FIT’s Dr. Joyce F. Brown, Editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Samira Nasr began an introduction to the guest of honor. Some remarks included praising MGC for her six years at Dior and being the first woman in the brand’s storied history. “It’s been nothing short of remarkable how she always has an eye on the house’s legacy but never gets buried under the weight of it,” Nasr said.
Of her first collection’s famous “We should all be feminists” sold-out–with-a-wait list-tees, Nasr remarked “these five words sparked controversy and outrage” and “defined what it means to be a woman today.” It also raised the profile of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who wrote the book-length essay with that statement.
Nasr spoke of Grazia Chiuri’s work with artisans such as Ukrainian Artist Olesia Trofymenko, using her “Tree of Life” motif to inspire strength and hope in the most recent collection. She also mentioned MGC’s Spring Summer 2020 tribute to female genitalia – “OK, it was called ‘Feminine Divine,’ but we all know it’s a giant vagina.”
That was a reference to Artist Judy Chicago’s sculpture tunnel, which created the entrance to the Dior Show. “It was positioned towards the (Rodin) Museum celebrating yet another male artist.” (Authors note: Please enlighten me — what wave of feminism is it when we celebrate those who can’t or won’t define the word “woman” in deference to the transgender community?)
With that, the “inimitable” MGC took her place at the podium, giving a (thankfully) very short speech. The designer who cut her teeth first at Fendi and then at Valentino remarked: “I think of Mr. Valentino, who received this award years ago. He was very important in my fashion education.”
After thanking the Museum, she said, “Fashion is part of culture, part of history, and by studying it, we understand ourselves.” And finally: “Artists helped me – I share this award with them today.”
Next, Julie Macklowe went to the podium: “I’d like to thank our sponsors Pfizer and Moderna – haha, just kidding – Nordstrom.”
Thank you, Nordstrom, for the $100 gift card I wasn’t mandated to roll up my sleeve for!
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