Learning the Ropes at the FGI Night of Stars 2017

Here are a few observations since this was my first time saddling up at the far western outpost and cavernous watering hole known as Cipriani Wall Street for the Fashion Group International Night of Stars 2017 rodeo circuit. Actually forget about the wild, wild west, fashion folks. These are modern times for city slickers — the evening’s theme of “Modern Voices” was seen and felt with a thoroughly modern dress code. Earlier in the week/day even, as I was stressing about what to wear (fashion people can be so judgmental) and fearing a style faux pas of the worst kind, I was advised by Lookonline’s own Wizardess of Oz (the great, wise and powerful Marilyn Kirschner) not to fret about what constitutes proper black tie attire. Of course she was correct but somehow you can’t explain this to the herd.

Grace Bol in fabulous Thom Browne
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Naturally, there’s “creative black tie” but what do you call it when everything under the sun is worn by the attendees who ranged from the highest-end designers to the industry’s unsung employees? Often the cooler cats wore the least traditionally black tie get-ups meaning that many of those higher up the food chain showed off their funky side at the expense of conforming to the formal diktat. At the very least, most of the male designers saw fit to wear sneakers with their tuxes or dinner jackets.

Laurel Marcus
Photo: Randy Brooke

Then again I’m pretty sure I was the only one who a la Carrie Bradshaw in the first “Sex and the City” movie “put a bird on my head” to complement my Anett Rostel pleated dress. In my case it was not l’oiseau entire, just its feathers although I did admire a woman with intensely plumed shoulders spotted in that paradigm of aviary preening A.K.A. the ladies loo. I couldn’t help remembering that The Museum of FIT’s Force of Nature exhibition (through November 18) makes the point that women were once referred to as “the dead bird wearing species,” doing so nearly to the point of extinction of several of our exotic feathered friends. Even the rare bird herself Iris Apfel ruled the roost last night alongside a marabou feather wearing Linda Fargo. Incidentally, if you ever want to become a “bird brain” with your own head feather fascinator, I recommend Mandana (1175 Lexington) where they have ready made headpieces or if you have about a week, they’ll design a unique creation. I may have to return to the nest as the peacock feathers plucked from the display case were calling to me.

Stan Herman, Marylou Luther, Fern Mallis
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, I enjoyed chatting with “ambush honoree” Marylou Luther during the cocktail hour, who remarked that she’s been in attendance at this soiree since its inception in what seems like the ’60s but was probably the early ’80s. She added that like the Met Gala, the FGI Night of Stars was much less of a big deal back in the day, as each year it just grows exponentially. I got a hoot out of telling Stan Herman that I still had (and wear) a few of his QVC robes from the ’90s when I was addicted (pre-internet) to this new kind of shopping. One cozy full length camel fleece with leopard collar favorite has been through the wash cycle more times than should be legal prompting me to ask Stan how do I kill this thing? That’s got to be bad for business when a robe is indestructible — doesn’t he know about planned obsolescence? It was a big night for the shopping network, as two of its top people were presented with awards including Mike George who received the Multi Media Retail Leadership Award and Jamie Kern Lima of IT Cosmetics, one of the retail giant’s top selling brands, who won the Beauty Award by being one of the first brave souls with rosacea to strip (off her makeup) live on national cable television.

Kerry Washington, Liz Rodbell, Margaret Hayes
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Another important sponsor is Lord & Taylor, a retail establishment whose flagship is about to go through an upheaval/downsizing since being purchased by WeWork. As you may have read, most of the current store will become WeWork headquarters leaving a quarter of the existing building as Lord & Taylor. Even though the store was a bit of a white elephant, often mostly empty it’s still sad to see another long standing retail establishment literally have to make (a lot of) room for the new upstarts. I mused on all of this while watching Liz Rodbell, President of Hudson’s Bay present the Lord & Taylor Fashion Oracle Award to Kerry Washington.

Allison Mitchell in her Viva Aviva top
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Speaking of young upstarts: Eager to meet and greet some of the industry veterans on hand were some of fashion’s next gen newcomers including accessories designer Allison Mitchell who won an award at this year’s FGI “Rising Stars” luncheon. She regaled in an amazing Viva Aviva architectural top (see more) which she somehow managed to transport from her current home in Boston. Viva Aviva is a line by Brooklyn designer Aviva Falk, a friend of Ms. Mitchell’s which can be found on Moda Operandi, Shopbop and on vivaaviva.com/. This lovely lady in red showed me her lambskin leather jewelry roll-like handbag which is her prototype product. “This is the sample but in the final version I’m going to put in zippered pockets at the top,” she explained. I fondled the soft leather solution to the endless evening bag dilemma of “how am I gonna fit my phone, camera, lipstick, keys etc without ruining the aesthetic of a sleek evening look”. These are not available on her website yet but in the meantime you can check out her other versatile minimalist, oversized clutches in various colors, textures and hides including hair calfskins. (See allisonmitchell.com ).

Andrew Bolton, Amy Fine Collins, Daphne Guinness & Thom Browne
Photo: Laurel Marcus

My other favorite moment during the packed cocktail hour came just as we were being corralled for dinner. In a corner by the bar were Met curator Andrew Bolton talking earnestly with Amy Fine Collins along with his partner designer Thom Browne deep in conversation with Daphne Guinness. I waited for my turn to pounce, at which I told them it would make my night to have a photo. Believe it or not, people often tell me I remind them of AFC (does anyone actually refer to her that way?!) although she is far taller and thinner (not to mention has a better wardrobe) than I do. In retrospect I wish I had taken the photo with my camera not my phone but if wishes were horses we’d all be Ralph Lauren.

Pat McGrath Glitter Lip kit
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Finally, the evening marked another first for me as I decided to try out Glamsquad.com to up the glamour quotient. Of course I’m no stranger to makeup so when I requested a smoky metallic eye, false lashes and a Pat McGrath glitter red lip from a kit (fittingly called Blood 1 and Blood 2) produced from where it had been stashed away for about a year when Pat’s makeup first launched, my MUA said “Oh, we’re doing a Halloween look?” Nah, not Halloween — that’s just my Thursday night. Here’s a tip for all you youngsters applying makeup on those of a “certain age” — don’t even think about dabbing heavy powder under the eyes as we spend big bucks to keep that area dewy. I actually pride myself on having relatively few under eye wrinkles yet I detected a striking resemblance to the crypt keeper once the powder got a chance to settle into that inevitable bit of crepiness. Perhaps I did get the Halloween makeup after all!

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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