Fashion Group International Annual Night of Stars

The Fashion Group ( was conceived at an informal luncheon in 1928, and became an organization in 1930, “with a place, a purpose, by-laws, officers, and women eager to be members.” Founding members included Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Arden, Edna Woolman Chase, Lily Dache, Edith Head, Claire McCardell, and Carmel Snow. Everyone was a star in her own right. Each year, since 1983, they have held their annual Night of Stars Gala. Last night was their 35th. The setting was once again, Cipriani Wall Street and yes, it was a starry-starry night.

Vera Wang
Photo: Randy Brooke

Among the star honorees were Vera Wang, this year’s Superstar; Olivier Rousteing, Anna Sui, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony were the honored Fashion Stars. Hearst Magazine was the lead sponsor with Arcade Beauty, IFF and LIM College acting as support. The event was digitally powered by WWD.

Linda Fargo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Guests included Linda Fargo, Fern Mallis, Natasha Lyonne, Andrew Bolton, Stephen Kolb, Jamie Drake, Hamish Bowles, Nina Garcia, Rosario Dawson, Soo Joo Park, Sailor Brinkley (a dead ringer for mom Christie), Dolly Wells, Cynthia Rowley, Martha Kramer, Neal Fox, Coco Rocha, Rosita Missoni, Angela Missoni, Marylou Luther.

Olivier Rousteing and his Balmain Army
Photo: Lieba Nesis

If there was one fashion theme (other than New York black of course), it would be glitter and shine because many women were bedecked in something sequined or with paillettes. Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing was one of the honorees and his entire entourage was lit up in one of his glittery thigh length body con dresses (more on that later).

Hamish Bowles
Photo: Randy Brooke

The actual theme of the evening was “Design Reimagined” which is apropos since good design and thinking out of the box is undeniably at the heart of everything from fashion and beauty to home design, architecture, and technology as exemplified by the evening’s 13 honorees who “see the world the way it is and want to transform it”.

Simon Doonan
Photo: Randy Brooke

Ruben Toledo once again illustrated the invitations and commemorative catalog, reimaging them specifically for this event, and Simon Doonan reprieved his role as host of the awards dinner that began with cocktails. It was his shortest, most to the point, and perhaps best one yet. Simon traditionally ‘roasted’ the honorees but told me it is getting more difficult to do since people see humor differently and everyone is careful to be politically correct and inoffensive these days. So, instead, he ‘roasted’ fashion.

Fern Mallis
Photo: Randy Brooke

He began asking what everyone thought was the “biggest issue” of the day. And no, it’s not what you think. It is fanny packs. He then asked attendees to raise their hands if they were for or against buying them this season. That got a big laugh. He went on to ponder the meaning of fashion these days. Number one on his list was “jumbo sneakers the size of cinder blocks that look like they are for stylish mental patients” as he jokingly put it.

Marilyn Kirschner
Photo: Randy Brooke

Number two is driving your husband crazy asking him to take endless pictures of you (“spontaneous images”) as you are heading out the door in one of your endless outfits so it could be posted on Instagram.  Number three is mentoring a new generation of global brand entrepreneurs and wondering how you could possibly be a “top-flight influencer’ if you don’t know what a fashion magazine is (this too was met with laughs from the audience).

Coco Rochas and Anna Sui
Photo: Randy Brooke

“Fashion is so paradoxical” Simon noted, which led him to a discussion about the late Bill Cunningham who he called a wise “sage.” He would often go to Bill when he was confused about the state of fashion. When he asked  Bill to clear things up for him, he recounted how Bill replied in his “James Stewart voice”: “Well, young fella, fashion is a mirror, a reflection of the culture, and it is chaotic, so naturally, fashion is chaotic as well.”

Maria Cornejo and Mark Ruffalo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Simon then introduced actor and environmentalist Mark Ruffolo who immediately joked, “I love a good fanny pack.” He was on hand to give the Sustainability award to Maria Cornejo. Mark and his wife have been friends with the designer for a decade, and he said that he literally “falls back in love with her when she wears one of Maria’s original, beautiful designs.” He praised the designer for dressing women for women, not for men and credited her with doing sustainable fashion before anyone else. “It’s design with a conscience. She is pushing the needles a step at a time to help the planet”. Maria said that the planet is very important to her. “I always try to be creative with less, and I want to empower women, make them feel beautiful and feel good about themselves.” She ended with, “Please go out and vote!”

Vanessa Friedman and Dean Baquet
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Media Award winner Vanessa Friedman, the Fashion Director/Chief Fashion Critic of The New York Times, lined up her boss Dean Baquet, who has been executive editor of The New York Times since 2014, to do the honors. He described Vanessa as someone who was not necessarily a “fan of fashion.” “She does not gush, she is serious about it,” he said. “She did not select to be a fashion writer. She is a thoughtful, serious journalist and an equally elegant person”. He specifically mentioned, “Burn it All Down,” the masterful piece she wrote while in Paris covering the Rick Owens show, which began the same time the Kavanaugh hearings were getting underway in Washington. Her editorial began with the thought that “there’s no good way to write about fashion in the wake of the scorched – earth event that took place Thursday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. No respectable segues into focusing on clothes. But you cannot ignore it either”.

Cynthia Rowley
Photo: Randy Brooke

Dressed in a chic understated Narciso Rodriguez one-shouldered asymmetrical tunic over narrow pants, Vanessa told me she had selected it “the night before,” Ms. Friedman thanked everyone in the room. “You are very good material,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be part of the dialogue because it’s civil discourse. And why does that matter? It matters because the world is not changed by naked people.”

Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff, a past recipient of the Design Technology award, was there to give this year’s award to Billie Whitehouse for Wearable X. Architectural Digest’s editor-in-chief Amy Astley was on hand to give Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of Roman and Williams this year’s Architecture Award. Stephen noted that even though they are not explicitly involved in fashion, what they share with fashion is that they “create things that are about making our lives more meaningful and creating beauty.”

Sailor Brinkley
Photo: Randy Brooke

Fashion Stars Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the creative team behind Opening Ceremony and Kenzo received their award from Sasha Natasha Lyonne who said the duo “use style to fight for personal freedom,” specifically citing their fight for the LGBQ community. Carol asked everyone at their table to join them on stage because “It takes a village” and they “brought us to where we are today.”  Humberto described them as “storytellers who pay attention to real life stories; human topics.” He then thanked Marc Jacobs for his inspiration to the fashion community.

Moncler’s Robert Norton and Miles Chamley Watson
Photo: Randy Brooke

Miles Chamley-Watson, the Olympic fencer, was on hand to give Moncler the Luxury Life Style award. Robert Norton, president of Moncler USA accepted the award. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard for Vera Bradley received the Humanitarian Award from Richard Ellenson who noted that she helped raise over $32 million in the fight against breast cancer and cerebral palsy. “What a gorgeous accomplishment and what a gorgeous woman,” he said. Barbara called the honor “the nicest tribute I have ever received in my life.”

Maye Musk and Julia Perry
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Julia Perry was there to present Maye Musk with the Fashion Oracle award. Julia hailed her as an “It girl at 70” and called her an inspiration, an amazing mother, and grandmother to 11 who is never on time but is always early to every appointment. “She is very professional and is actually a basic gal with simple needs, a great sport, who is a fearless adventuress.” For her part, Maye was impressed that she can now say she is officially an ‘oracle,’ but at the same time, she observed that everyone over 70 is wise, and gets wiser with age.

Angela and Rosita Missoni

Neiman Marcus’s Jim Gold was there to give Deirdre Quinn for Lafayette 148 the Corporate Leadership Award. She said she was “proud to be a woman-owned and woman lead company where the best is yet to come.” Mr. Gold noted that not only does she have remarkable leadership skills, but other than Chanel, her company is Neiman’s largest with sales that are actually higher than Chanel. “Ready to wear is a bitch” he admitted and to be able to sustain the level of popularity the way they have, is a major feat. He cited “collaboration, loyalty, giving back to the community, and major philanthropic efforts,” as reasons for her success and called her a “selfless, humble, loyal, caring, giving person who knows how to run a business the right way.”

Roseanne Morrison
Photo: Randy Brooke

Frederic Malle received the Beauty Award from Daniella Vitale who described him as a “disrupter.” “The balance of art, beauty, and fragrance is the key to his success, blurring the lines between fashion and fragrance” She went on to describe him as an “incredible genius, and his brand is an incredible gem.” Frederic said that 20 years ago the fragrance industry was “going down the drain” but thanked his long love affair with Barneys (and Simon Doonan) as a turning point in his career.  He said what sets his fragrances apart is that they are “artistic perfumes that are works of art.”

Olivier Rousteing
Randy Brooke

When Fashion Star winner Olivier Rousteing came onstage, he was surrounded by an entourage that included a gaggle of his gorgeous leggy models wearing his signature body-conscious, beaded dresses. As he put it, “I don’t want to be alone on stage as you can see. This is my comfort zone. I want to apologize to my publicist because I am going to fuck up my speech. My nine years at Balmain has been an incredible experience. I created the ‘Balmain Army’ to fight the boundaries of fashion”.

Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Fashion Star Anna Sui enlisted her best friend Marc Jacobs to do the honors (the designer was wearing a woman’s Chanel jacket). FYI, in 2013, Marc and his then business partner, Robert Duffy were recipients of the Superstar Award and last year, Marc was on hand to give WWD’s executive editor Bridget Foley her Board of Director’s Media Award. Marc quickly congratulated all the honorees; “You are all fantastic” he said.  And then talked about how he first met Anna three decades ago when he was working at Charivari and described what she was wearing (one of her own designs).

Marc continued: “Anna always knows. She is passionate, authentic, and always knows what’s happening before its happening. She’s a great vintage and antique shopper, a great fashion designer who is reimaging the past but always keeps it contemporary. She is an incredible historian; an encyclopedia of fashion. She remembers everything. She never ceases to thrill and delight.” FYI, when the famed 26th Street Flea Market was open in New York years ago, I was there religiously every weekend, and I always saw Anna. In fact, very often we were fighting over or eyeing the same pieces lol. Anna said that she started with 5 pieces in 1981 and observed that 37 years later she’s still doing what she loves. “I am SO blessed!” She thanked everyone who helped her fulfill her dream especially her parents. “I hope we all live our dreams” she enthused.

Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Vera Wang
Photo: Randy Brooke

Last but not least, Superstar honoree Vera Wang came on stage with both Donna Karan and Calvin Klein (they were a unified vision in black). I guess when you are the recipient of the Superstar Award, you can have two designing icons do the honors for you. And a lovefest it was.  Calvin called her an “international superstar, mother, philanthropist, and a designer who is advocating for and inspiring women. She is also one of the hardest working designers I know other than Donna Karan of course.” This pleased Donna who added that Vera is like her in that she is “never satisfied” and “Oy Vey, is always complaining.” “We both love black, we both love Rick Owens, and she’s like a Jewish mother, and she’s not even Jewish!”, Donna joked. “But it’s not what she wears on the outside. It’s what she wears on the inside that is important”.

Vera was very animated and called her award, and receiving it from two iconic designers who are her friends no less, a “personal milestone.” She thanked them for their enormous creativity on behalf of the fashion industry, and she lauded the “brilliant” Olivier Rousteing. She also thanked Margaret Hayes and Nicole Fishelis and thanked the Fashion Group and the women pioneers who started it back in 1930. “Come on, clap! Let’s get some energy here” she scolded. Vera recalled how, back in 1999, she received an award from Fashion Group International as a fashion star. “It’s an extraordinary institution,” she said. “You rock! And you do too Simon!. I am VERY honored”.

At this point, Simon told everyone to go home, “but don’t forget your “fanny packs” he quipped! Well, we might not have had fanny packs, but when we exited, we were all handed enormous baby turquoise leather bags filled with goodies.

– 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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