On Wednesday, September 22nd, Wes Gordon was presented with The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT’s 2021 Artistry in Fashion Award. This popular and well-attended luncheon, sponsored by Nordstrom, benefits the Museum at FIT: NY’s only museum dedicated solely to the art of fashion.
Past honorees are Ralph Rucci (2006), Alber Elbaz (2007), Isabel Toledo (2008), Dries Van Noten (2009), Valentino (2010), Karl Lagerfeld (2011), Oscar de la Renta (2012), Michael Kors (2013), Carolina Herrera (2014), Manolo Blahnik (2015), Albert Kreimler of Akris (2016), Thom Browne (2017), Narciso Rodriguez (2018), and Christian Louboutin (2019).
I’ve attended every awards luncheon since its inception. At Ralph’s celebratory lunch held at Brasserie 8 ½ at 9 West 57th Street, there were about 100 guests, and at the time, Ralph referred to it as a “simple but quiet and luxurious lunch.”
In Pre-Covid times, the event was held on the first Wednesday in September, unofficially heralding in the new season and kicking off NYFW. This year, it had a new date and a new venue: Cipriani South Street. Its location, the southern tip of Manhattan, is literally and figuratively worlds away from both Lincoln Center (where the lunch had taken place for the past 10 years), and the UES, where I would venture to guess, many of those in attendance reside.
That being said, the former Battery Maritime Building, restored by the Cipriani family, is not only beautiful but historic. The 140,000 sq. ft. Beaux-Arts landmark building was completed in 1909 when ferries were still a vital means of transportation in New York City. It is a highly sought-after venue with an old-world ambiance mixed with a hip industrial vibe, light-filled windows, high ceilings, and enormous modern art canvases adorning the walls.
While most guests sat at a round table inside, a large terrace accommodated several long tables. Guests could enjoy the breeze from the River while eating sea bass and risotto and watching a fashion show of some of Wes’s new designs.
While the lunch was a bit more scaled down this time around (there usually are 500+ guests, and yesterday, there were about 200), it was no less exuberant. Everyone seems thrilled to just be getting out, socializing, and having a reason to get dressed. And boy, did they dress. One attendee arrived in a red chiffon Carolina Herrera ball gown.
This is an event where guests like to pay sartorial tribute to the honoree. Among those wearing a Carolina Herrera design are Dr. Valerie Steele, Dr. Joyce Brown, Jean Shafiroff, Fe Fendi, Alessia Fendi, Emilie Rubinfeld, President of Carolina Herrera, and Carolina herself dressed in a white jacket accessorized with a brooch and chic glen plaid trousers. There were also plenty of women in Herrera or Herrera-inspired polka dot dresses, a long-time signature.
It was hard to miss Patrica Mears in an eye-popping hot pink chiffon dress designed by Kamperett, a San Francisco label created by two young women designers. Patricia, who used to wear a lot of blacks, said she is wearing more joyful color these days.
I also spotted Martha Stewart, Kay Unger, Liz Rodbell, the new head of Parsons, Miki Higasa, R. Couri Hay, Somers Farkas, Eleonora Kennedy, Audrey Gruss, Jamee Gregory, Mark Gilbertson, Lauren Day Roberts, Kathy Prounis, designers Nicole Miller, Stacey Bendet, Victor dE Souza and B. Michael with his partner Mark- Anthony Edwards.
There was Julie Macklowe in a short “sumery” floral dress and heeled sandals (Julie’s signature look to many of these events was sneakers and Fern Mallis, wearing a black horn pendant Tom Ford once gifted her. It’s Fern’s way of honoring the recent passing of Tom’s husband, journalist Richard Buckley; one of the nicest and kindest people in fashion. By the way, Fern is excited to resume her Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series at the 92nd Street Y.
During her pre-lunch remarks, Dr. Joyce Brown noted that we are celebrating Wes Gordon, who has managed to put his own youthful stamp on the label known for its vibrant, bold, and timeless sophistication and the 40th anniversary of the brand. When Wes accepted his award, he humbly referred to himself as “the caretaker” of the Herrera label.
“Designing clothes is my passion and my way of fighting the darkness,” he observed. The 33-year-old Chicago-born Central Saint Martins grad listed his muses and ended with his main one: Carolina Herrera, who he called “The Empress of New York elegance.” Indeed!