FIT’s ‘French Connection’

Fashion designer Gemma Khang with Lookonline editor Marilyn Kirschner

It’s the Dog Days of August. Many, if not most of us, have been ‘en vacance’, or at the very least, taking it slower and easier. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that things are about to change quickly: New York Fashion Week, (which will ‘inaugurate’ its exciting new home, Lincoln Center), is just weeks away. Quite frankly, who can think about fashion (or even contemplate getting dressed to the nines for that matter) with the stifling heat we’ve all been subject to this summer? (This has been the hottest summer on record).

Thankfully, the fashion starved fashion crowd was given a mid summer’s jolt on Tuesday evening, somewhat of a ‘jump start’ to the upcoming season, thanks to the Couture Council of FIT’s Summer Party which was held at the tres elegant French Consulate on 5th Avenue and 79th Street. Quite a fitting venue considering that Karl Lagerfeld, (“one of the most important designers in the world” in the words of FIT President Joyce Brown, who along with Dr. Valerie Steele, addressed the crowd midway through the soiree), will receive the Couture Council’s special ‘Fashion Visionary’ Award (the award was created solely for him) at a benefit luncheon at Avery Fisher Hall on Friday, September 10th (the day before New York Fashion Week officially begins). Indeed, he is a highly influential, true creative genius, who has taken the house of Chanel into the 21st Century. And after all, Chanel is one of the most consummately French fashion houses around. N’est pas?

The well attended cocktail party (200+), held on two floors of the beautiful building, was festive, highly spirited, and colorful (thanks to more than a few true ‘fashion statements’ on display), and it was the perfect ‘New York’ mix (classic and edgy; uptown and downtown). Well known faces from the world of fashion: The New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, dandy Patrick MacDonald, Lynn Yaeger, Linda Fargo, Francisco Costa, Ralph Rucci, Cathy Hardwick, eccentric fashion designer Gemma Khang, wearing a scarlet red satin cocktail dress and headpiece of her own design), etc., hobnobbed alongside social fixtures like Deeda Blair, Cece Cord (looking chic in a white pantsuit), Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Barbara Tober, Michele Gerber Klein, and Couture Council members Liz Peek, Alexandra Lebenthal (who was literally ‘pretty in pink’ thanks to her hot pink Tory Burch shirt and pants) and Yaz Hernandez (giving a nod to the ‘French’ theme in her J. Mendel dress). There was even a politician on board: Representative Caroline Maloney (the French Consulate is located within the boundaries of her 14th District).

By the way, I had a chance to chat with first time author Alexandra Lebenthal, who is President and CEO of Lebenthal & Co. and a regular on the benefit circuit. Her new novel, ‘ The Recessionistas’, which just made it’s debut on August 9th, chronicles the lives of four upper east side socialites whose worlds have turned upside down on the heels of the economic collapse in 2008. Though she did state that it is a work of ‘fiction’, it is obviously based on some real characters, and she has even woven the world of fashion (naturally) into the mix. I look forward to reading it.

It was a wonderful evening; even the weather cooperated (it was cool enough to mill around outside the consulate on 5th Avenue and take in the breezes of Central Park, right across the street). Actually, the only thing missing was Karl Lagerfeld himself.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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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