New York, Fashion Week’s version of Paris’s “la rentrée” (the return from summer vacances/back-to-school season) had an authentic Gallic flair yesterday as FIT’s Award for Artistry in Fashion luncheon honored a bonafide Frenchman. Bien sur Monsieur Christian Louboutin kept everyone on their toes, especially the attendees who chose to wear his vertiginous footwear.
This was my first time attending this fabulous event, but I’m told that each year the crowd gets bigger, more eclectic and (my addition) blonder. The rarefied air of the (RIP) David Koch Hall at Lincoln Center was filled to capacity with a mix of pampered socialites, OG fashion people, Nordstrom retail people (no, they’re not the same thing), and an added dash of Hollywood celebrity for good measure.
Surprisingly there were not as many shod a la Louboutin as you would imagine – perhaps something to do with the “agony of defeet.” (See my previous article if you want to know more about my personal history with the brand. Ever since that fateful day in fashion history when Monsieur Louboutin seized his assistant’s bottle of fiery red nail polish with that eureka moment — applying it to the soles of the shoes, a legend (and a lawsuit with Yves Saint Laurent) was born. I would say that another countrywoman – Coco Chanel (by way of Karl Lagerfeld) – had at least an equal representation on the footwear here (including mine).
As attendees waited their turn outside the building to pose on the grassy green step-and-repeat, I spoke to guests about their choice of footwear. I was surprised to see Julie Macklowe in the highest of the high studded and bowed Loubs possible as she often wears sneakers. “I was going to wear Louboutin sneakers with this (black sequin mini) dress, but my husband said I would look about two-feet tall.” I asked if perhaps she had gotten the foot injections that supposedly make wearing “skyscrapers” bearable. “No, I took a Xanax,” she replied. Alrighty, then…
Most people kept it classy in everything from long summer dresses in cotton or flowing silk to eye-catching pantsuits to more tailored basic black with bling. I even saw a pair of baggy boyfriend style faded jeans accessorized with Louboutins. There were the ladies who lunch and quite a few ladies seeing (and wearing) red as CL’s signature color.
As one might expect with a Louboutin theme, a few vestiges of early Kardashian-esque platform Loubs worn with requisite short, shiny and tight clubwear appeared almost costume-y. Ken Downing pushed the seasons in what seemed to be a winter white cashmere turtleneck and blazer.
Can you say “schvitzing” in French? A few mad hatted women turned the season back to early May thinking they were at Central Park’s Frederick Law Olmsted hat luncheon. Even Christian Louboutin himself sported Venetian gondolier-style boater headwear.
In the crowd were Joanna Coles, Hal Rubenstein, Martha Stewart, Glenda Bailey, Linda Fargo, Fe Fendi, Veronica Webb, Fern Mallis, Derek Blasberg, Hamish Bowles, and many other fashion and media bigwigs. Valerie Simpson, B. Michael (his custom red dresses were worn by Dr. Joyce Brown and Jean Shafiroff who accessorized hers with Louboutin red patent pumps and Louboutin gold sneakers thrown over her shoulder ice-skater style ), R. Couri Hay, Representative Carolyn Maloney, and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright were table mates. When I told Hay that I enjoyed his segment of CNN’s Halston documentary, he indicated that a lot of juicy stuff was left on the cutting room floor. “They really cleaned that up!” he commented.
Once seated at the red chaired table, white napkin with reversible red lining on my lap, a roasted tomato tart tatin appetizer in front of me (which didn’t look all that appetizing but was surprisingly good), followed by lobster tail with risotto, and le vin blanc ou rose to wash it down) the program got underway.
Dr. Joyce Brown took to the podium to remark on how Christian Louboutin “pushed the limits of wearability” (!) turning his “red soles into objects of desire” adding that we didn’t need “a show of hands or feet” to demonstrate how these shoes have become a part of our collective consciousness. Dr. Valerie Steele mentioned that FIT’s new exhibition “Paris, Capital of Fashion” features examples of the shoe designer’s work.
Jamie Nordstrom reminded everyone that Nordstrom (the store) was coming (October 24) soon – “right down the street. A Manhattan store has been a dream of our family ever since I was born,” he remarked. He spoke of his great grandfather, an immigrant who opened Nordstrom as a shoe store so “there’s an emotional connection to shoes.” Louboutins have been a staple at Nordstrom for some time leading the retailer to praise the designer’s “focus on customers” and his “engagement with his brand through how he runs his company.”
The dash of Hollywood appeared in the black and white fringed form of Priyanka Chopra Jonas who apparently became a friend after meeting CL at a Moroccan film festival, and later an Indian film festival where they shared (according to Christian) some “dirty stories.” She is also a fan of his footwear, feigning jealousy of his young twin daughters who get to grow up with a closet full of Louboutins (of course she wore the designer’s shoes at her wedding to Nick last year). Quoting Marilyn Monroe’s “give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world,” (pretty funny considering I wouldn’t even be able to stand up) she names dropped Beyonce, Lady Gaga, SJP as fellow Louboutin footwear fans.
Chopra Jones even referred to herself as an “everyday woman” who gets a “sense of achievement” and a “sense of pride” from owning and wearing his shoes as well as that “little extra jeuje” — that “je ne sais quoi when you walk out the door.” Aside from the fact that she mispronounced covet as “covet” and kept referring to the afternoon luncheon as “tonight” and “this evening” she didn’t embarrass herself nearly as much as she does in the Jo-Bros “Sucker” music video.
If one thought they were in for a short stint when Monsieur “Low Boots” came to the podium one would be wrong. When first approached by FIT to receive this award he was “blocked, blocked, blocked” when it came to making an acceptance speech. “The French don’t do speeches. It’s not familiar to our culture. We don’t have this British humor or American je ne sais quoi. We just don’t do that. We barely even say thank you.”
Finally, he decided to pretend he was giving a wedding toast – “not my wedding” he was quick to tell his boyfriend. “My passion for my work (the groom) and FIT (the bride) is the marriage, and I am the best man.” After thanking Dr. Brown, Dr. Valerie Steele, Nordstrom, and Chopra (giving Nick a warning to “behave since he has a fun girl by his side”) he gave a special tribute to longtime champion and bestie who helped him get his start, Diane von Furstenberg. “I will never forget her dedication. I would like to share this award with her,” to a standing ovation adding, “I’ll share it, but I’ll keep it.”
Although no mention was made of it at the luncheon #LouboutinWorld is planning to branch out from shoes, bags, and cosmetics as the designer prepares to build a boutique hotel in Portugal’s Alentejo region (described as the Portuguese Hamptons). Here’s hoping the accommodations are more comfy than his shoes.