March of the Penguins

Fashion Week got off to an unofficial start with last night’s ‘Icons in Black & White’ party honoring Oleg Cassini, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Mary McFadden, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Vera Wang, hosted by the CFDA and Pantene Pro-V, held at the Whitney Museum. So I suppose one can argue that it was rather fitting and appropriate that the jam packed event (if you were even slightly claustrophic you may have wanted to stay away or at least find a little space far from the maddening crowd) held in a long and narrow 4th floor gallery (which seemed a tad too small to comfortably accommodate the turnout) had all the ambiance of the Bryant Park Tents filled to the brim right around cocktail hour. Reportedly, when someone asked Stan Herman why the place was so packed, he answered, “Because it’s FREE!” And the fact that invitees were able to bring one guest also added to the frenzy.

The flower filled gallery, boasting several open bar and lots of appealing edibles, was also very very warm which didn’t deter fur wearing guests like Lauren Ezersky, who was sporting a massive fox fur trapper hat. When I asked, “won’t you be hot?” She replied, “I’m already hot. But it looks good” Yes, we all know one must suffer for fashion. And it was also very dark which made it hard to see who was there and who wasn’t. Oleg Cassini and Vera Wang were there, as was Diane Von Furstenberg, posing for the paparazzi on the main floor. Mary McFadden, wearing signature white pleated top and black floor length skinny skirt was leaving just as I arrived, and the always elegant Carolina Herrera was making an early departure as well. But I did get a chance to ask her to give me “two words” about her upcoming fall 2006 collection. “Too early” was her reply. I never did see Donna Karan (unless she was there and I didn’t know it, which is possible) and Calvin Klein never showed up (hardly surprising).

Milling around in the throngs were fashion veterans and designers like Koos Van Den Akker, Louis Dell’Olio, Kay Unger, Adrienne Landau, Richard Lambertson, Peter Som, Margaret Hayes, Ruth Finley, Cathy Hardwick, and Joan Vass (accompanied by Richard Mauro). The legendary knitwear designer actually provided me with the evening’s most entertaining moments, as she pointed to her wool black and white houndstooth flats (at one point she actually took them off and waved them in my face so that I could get a better look) and corresponding backpack that she proudly claimed to have designed. She also revealed that the Costume Institute at the Met had called and requested a truckload of her archives. One would think this would be a perfect time for Joan Vass and her particular and very amazing talents, considering fashion’s love affair with witty knits, texture, and whimsical craft.

The evening was billed as “a celebration of seven fashion moments inspired by Truman Capote’s infamous Black & White ball” according to www.fashionweekdaily, but alas, other than the title, the dress code, and honorees, there crowded event was not exactly elegant in that Truman Capote-like way. Each of the designers was asked to submit a photograph which marked a turning point in their careers and the 6’x4’ images were displayed on the walls in the gallery. The live fashion installation, with models wearing modern interpretations of the photos, was supposed to begin at 7:45 but didn’t start until 8:15, and because there was no raised platform or stage, they were impossible to see. Prior to this, Stan Herman gave a little speech about the CFDA and Pantene and of course, talked about each one of the honorees, none of whom were on hand to offer their own personal feelings about the occasion.

By the way, the invitation called for “Black & White Cocktail Attire”, and while some apparently ignored the suggestion, most did comply (hey, in our black and white loving fashion universe, what could be easier than putting together something in black and white?) However, this made it somewhat difficult to tell the guests from the waiters.

Oh, and by the way, speaking (as I always do) about the natural connection between home décor, home furnishings, architecture and fashion (which was touched upon in my recent ‘Masters of Fashion Interview’ with Iris Barrel Apfel)….This was exemplified yesterday by The New York Times, whose House and Home section looked more like the Thursday Styles section than the Thursday Styles section. It featured a cover story about fashionable residences, “Nests Imperial or Fashionably Feathered”, by Ruth La Ferla, (the newspaper’s fashion writer), and boasted a picture of a dress by Peter Som alongside a picture of 485 Fifth Avenue, a new condominium whose lobby, lounge, and certain details of the apartments, were designed by Mr. Som (whose parents are both architects, by the way). And the article also mentioned that next week, when Peter unveils his fall 2006 collection at the Bryant Park Tents (just a few steps away), Corcoran will “play up the building’s fashion connection with a party at the 485 Fifth Avenue sales office, alternating projected images of the apartments with photographs and video clips of Mr. Som’s spring and fall collections.”



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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