Fashion Group 31st Annual International Night of Stars

Peter Copping and Marc Jacobs
(All photos Lieba Nesis)

Last night, I attended Fashion Group International’s 31st annual “Night of Stars”.  Cipriani Wall Street was filled with stars from the worlds of  music, entertainment, business, beauty, and. of course, fashion. But the real star of the evening was the beloved designer Oscar de la Renta who passed away on Monday and continues to be in everyone’s thoughts and on their minds. And in what has to be the most fitting coincidence (either that or the folks at FGI are prescient), Peter Copping, Oscar’s successor, was there being honored as a Fashion Star (along with Joseph Altuzarra, Sarah Burton, and Brunello Cucinelli; with the Superstar Award going to Diane Von Furstenberg).

Giovanna Battaglia and Stefano Tonchi

Of course, when these awards were announced months ago, Peter was working as creative director at Nina Ricci in Paris. Who could foretell that he would subsequently leave his post and that Eliza Reed Bolen would make the formal announcement on Monday, October 20th, the day of Oscar’s passing, that he was named as Oscar de la Renta’s successor (Oscar made this selection himself).  And how fitting that the overall theme of the evening was “The Protagonists”, which translates from ancient Greek to mean, “one who plays the first part, is the chief actor or main character, central primary personal figure; the leading character, hero or heroine of a drama or other literary work; the first actor in ancient Greek drama who played not only the main role but also other roles when the main character was offstage”.

Debbie Harry with award winner Glenda Bailey

Let’s face it, the world of fashion is always rife with Greek dramas: (there are those never ending revolving doors, with designers taking on many different roles), and this is just one example of it coming to life. In any event, it was obvious that many people were eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of the man of the moment as he arrived on the red carpet (many did not even know what he looked like; but as I pointed out to a fellow guest, that will all soon change), and we were all curious as to what exactly he would say when he received his award. Before a wonderful dinner of filet mignon and Chilean Sea Bass (and prior to host Simon Doonan telling the crowd that he was on a mission to “liberate everyone” and then went into a hilarious bit about the time he hired a Queen Elizabeth lookalike to attend the opening of Barneys in Soho), FGI President Margaret Hayes took the stage to make her welcoming remarks and wasted no time in honoring Oscar, a “true gentleman”. She talked about how much he loved life and lived it with a purpose; how he was only one of three American designers to design haute couture in Paris, and observed that he was a mentor to many people in the room. “His mission was to make women look beautiful”.

Linda Fargo

When Marc Jacobs took the stage to give the award to Peter Copping, he noted that when he met Peter in 1997, he “knew he would be part of his team” (at Louis Vuitton in Paris). Marc positively effused about the designer, talking about his creativity, how he valued his opinions and his work ethic. When Peter announced to Marc that he was leaving to go to Nina Ricci, Marc said it was Louis Vuitton’s loss, and Ricci’s gain, and “he put his own unique stamp on that label”. “I’m thrilled to have Peter here in New York where we’ll be seeing more of him.”Upon taking the stage, Peter said, “I’m excited about this new challenge. But it’s obviously a bittersweet moment with this week’s events. I want to thank everyone for their support. I’m sure Oscar will be my guardian angel.”

Diane von Furstenberg and Karen Elson

Karen Elson took the podium to give Diane her Superstar Award, and described her as cool, sexy, “the epitome of foxy”. “She’s a powerhouse, a woman of extreme depth. I’ve not met a woman like her. I am constantly in awe of her. She is a mentor to so many and a massive force in philanthropy. She has shaped and paved the way for us all.” She asked people to stand to honor her and then Diane said, “This is what happens when you get old. People stand for you.” She talked about how fashion is a family, and observed, “We may look frivolous, but are also philanthropic.” She then began talking about her good friend Oscar de la Renta and her tone changed immediately. With tears in her eyes, she explained how she and Oscar always shared Saturday Night chicken dinners in Connecticut (where they had homes nearby), but that two weeks ago, it became more difficult for him to do so” and it was the last time she saw him. She began tearing up as she talked about how “he loved life, beauty, flowers”. “He was the best gossiper and he was mischievous.” “The only fitting tribute is to love life”. Then addressing Peter Copping, she said, “Oscar was very proud when he told me he chose you.”

Katie Couric and Lisa Paulsen

By the way, the best speeches were those that were short, sweet, and to the point, but the award for the shortest speech of the night, has to go to Sarah Burton. The famously shy designer quickly thanked several people including stylist Camilla Nickerson “for her inspiration”. Andrew Bolton, who presented the award, talked about how he met her in 2010 when he was working on the Alexander McQueen exhibition. He praised her “deep respect for craftsmanship and her technical brilliance” and noted, “She doesn’t design for herself which is unusual for a woman”. “Sarah isn’t channeling the McQueen DNA, she IS the McQueen DNA.”

Joseph Altuzarra and Michelle Monaghan

Actress Michelle Monaghan gave Joseph Altuzarra his award saying “he oozes sex appeal” (“both he and his clothes”) and praised his inherent goodness, eagerness, and optimism. “He is a legend in the making.” She recalled wearing his “incomparable leather fringe dress” to the 2014 Met Ball and said she felt like a “kid in a candy store.” When Joseph took to the podium, he remarked that it was only four years ago that he received Fashion Group’s Rising Star Award. “I feel incredibly blessed to be here tonight.” He then thanked his wonderful team and his husband of “5 days” for “supporting and loving him”. Brunello Cucinelli spoke almost entirely in Italian when he accepted his Fashion Star Award from Richard Story.

Mary J. Blige, Elie Tahari

There were performances by New York City’s Gay Men’s Chorus and music was provided by Brian Newman; best known for his collaboration with Lady Gaga. Speaking of musical legends, Debbie Harry was there to present Glenda Bailey with the Lord &Taylor Fashion Oracle Award and Mary J. Blige gave Elie Tahari the Brand Vision Award. Isabella Rossellini gave the Sustainability Award to Roger Schmid for Natura; Susan Kaufman gave Fossil’s Tom Kennedy his Corporate Leadership Award; L’Oreal’s Carol Hamilton received the Beauty Award from the team of Viktor & Rolf (their fragrance Flowerbomb is one of the top selling fragrances in the U.S.); Domenico De Sole gave William Sofield the Interior Design Award; and Katie Couric honored Lisa Paulsen with the Humanitarian Award. FYI, when Katie arrived on stage, she was unimpressed with the crowd’s rather unanimated welcome. “You could do better than that” she chided. “Come on, wake up!”  The self-effacing communications star said “This is such a swanky affair”. “I never know quite how to dress for these fashion events and so I turned to my good friend Carmen Marc Valvo to make my dress”.

Some random quotes gathered by Lieba Nesis during the evening:

Elie Tahari – What are you most looking forward to? “Seeing your dress and sharing the love with everyone”.

Diane von Furstenberg-Are you excited for the award? “I am really sad about Oscar”.

Wes Gordon-What are you looking forward to tonight? “I am looking forward to seeing Diane get her award.” Did you know Oscar? “Yes I interned for him for two summers and he came to my first presentation.  He always made women look beautiful and If I could be one tenth as good as him I would be happy.”

Jane Seymour-What was the most amazing thing that ever happened to you? “Being honored by the Queen of England-it was very ceremonious.” Who are your favorite designers? “Pamela Roland, Herve Leger, and Valentino.  I usually wear colors because they look better on camera.” What do you think of the way young stars dress today? “They all feel the need to look like pole dancers and I don’t do that, I like to wear classic couture.” Would you do plastic surgery? “No, I would rather play women my own age and besides fillers make people look like chipmunks.  I am comfortable with the older version of myself.” What is date night like for you and your husband? “Well he is currently dating somebody else so I don’t know. Yes we are getting divorced and I have a boyfriend-can’t tell you who.”

 Peter Copping– Why do you think Oscar chose you? “We share a lot of things in common and I can’t wait to be in NY with all the great energy-Paris is like living in a museum.” Will you stick to evening wear and what about designing for the red carpet? “We will do day wear and evening wear a whole range of things – but primarily evening wear. I don’t want to dress too many celebrities for the red carpet I want to just nail one look and stick with that – and I can’t say who I will be dressing yet.”

Selita Ebanks– What are you looking forward to tonight? “Just came here to see all the beautiful people” – spoken like a true Victoria’s Secret model!

It was all over when Simon told everyone they could go, and then it was a scramble to retrieve coats and umbrellas, and the very large and very heavy gift bags, which are always filled with wonderful goodies. Included this time was a Lord & Taylor gift certificate, Nina Ricci’s Bougie Parfumee, a cashmere scarf from Brunello Cucinelli, a handsome watch from Fossil, a Brian Newman Live from New York City CD, a black and white chain patterned nylon zippered bag from Diane Von Furstenberg, and a bottle of Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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