Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The Flatiron Building from 24th and Fifth Avenue. 2:40 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Very hot in New York. Heat. That didn’t stop the town from going out. The thing about heat in the city is that it takes time to leave -- all the steel and glass, bricks and mortar, macadam and concrete, heated and retaining. There are also the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of air conditioners spewing even more heat into the heat. You do not feel motivated to move around much.

I went down to Michael’s to lunch with an old friend. The streets along the way were not as quiet as they’d been in the past two days. There are a lot of tourists also. The mob outside of Abercrombie & Fitch on 56th and Fifth is a menace to all the other pedestrians.

A regular scene outside Abercrombie & Fitch.
People also don’t know how to move aside to let people pass by. They’re oblivious except to the doorway which is usually posted with recently adolescent boys who are obviously chosen their looks and their (half-naked) body types. I don’t know what they’re selling inside but the message is teenage sex. Or more specifically, having sex.

Michael’s was jammed, one of the busiest days I’ve seen this summer. I wasn’t paying attention but there was a long table in the center of the front room with several women including Jolie Hunt, Beth DeWoody, Francine LeFrak, Somers Farkas, Hilary Gumbel, Felicia Taylor, Kathy Hilton, the table being both the source and object of other people’s conversations.

Last night the Frick Collection hosted their 4th annual Summer Soiree
which focused on the Russell Page designed 70th Street garden, although the heat of the night made the mansion the ultimate destination. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by Creative Edge. Inside of course, guests could stand in the galleries and just absorb this amazing collection.

The museum has an exhibition going on right now also – besides their Rembrandts, Holbeins, Goyas, Gainsboroughs, Velasquez, RenoirsIn a New Light: Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert and Turkish Taste at the Court of Marie-Antoinette. That and cool jazz provided by the quartet called The Flail. More than 400 attending, 6:30 to 9, a perfect way to spend a hot summer weeknight in New York.

I started out down at The Academy Mansion at 2 East 63rd Street. This mansion was built in1921 by a twenty-something heir to the Royal Baking Powder Fortune named William Ziegler Jr. Mr. Ziegler’s father died in 1905 when the boy was 14, leaving him about $10 million which would be like $200 million today. He married as soon as he reached majority around the time the house was completed in the early 1920s. However, the marriage didn’t take, and after living in the house for one year, the couple split and he put the place on the market.
The Academy Mansion at 2 East 63rd Street, scene of last night's launch of the first fragrance by Tomas Maier for Bottega Veneta.
A few years later it was acquired by a member of the Woolworth family who occupied until the late 40s after when Mr. Woolworth gave it to the New York Academy of Sciences. In 2005 the house was purchased by investor Len Blavatnik.

Mr. Blavatnik, it turns out, collects residential real estate in this part of town, all of which he paid big bucks for. He apparently never moved into 2 East 63rd but has refurbished into its impeccable shape, renamed it The Academy Mansion, and now it is used for private/public events such as last night’s.
View of the garden from a reception room.
Last night Bottega Veneta and Coty Prestige hosted an unveiling of the first fragrance created by Tomas Maier, the designer who is also the Creative Director of Bottega Veneta. Since he joined the company in 2001, the companies sales have increased 800%.

Fragrance launches are of little interest to me for no reason. Although there are exceptions and a good reason behind them. Last night was a perfect example. Bottega Veneta is an advertiser on the NYSD, and I might add, a very prestigious advertiser. And, secondly, and most importantly, I’d read an interview with the designer several months ago that was intriguing.
Bottega Veneta's Tomas Maier.
It was the first time I learned anything about the man whose name I had only heard in conversation. I thought the interview was in the FT but I can’t find it in their archives. It left me with the impression of a charismatic man with a quiet certainty about his ideas and decisions, and an unusual modesty -- or maybe it’s humility about his art -- to go with it. The story also portrayed a man very thorough in making his creative choices, turning out an elegant style.

Frankly, I wanted to meet him just to see if the impression I developed through the interview was realistic, that this was an artist, a real artist, at work in the commercial orbit.

First Fragrance by Bottega Veneta.
The meeting was brief. The designer was standing in the center of the room as if waiting another one of the guests, occasionally talking to people who came his way, or vice versa. I introduced myself. I was amazed that he (who lives in Italy and in Miami) knew of me as well as the Diary. So I took his picture. I still haven’t mastered the camera, so I took a couple more hoping to get something decent that looks like him.

He was very patient. You can see his style is like his dress, sharp but almost unassumingly casual. His personality seems the same. I didn’t discuss the fragrance or the business with him; what is there to say? This was a man who obviously was more interested in his work than in “marketing” in some old Fifth Avenue mansion.

Although the pro he is, he was gracious and patient with everyone about it. At that point Margaret Russell and Robert Rufino of Architectural Digest came along to speak to the man and I moved out into the garden for a glass of champagne before going off to dinner at Swifty’s.

On my way out, one of the staff was holding a silver tray fragrance tabs surrounding a bottle of First Fragrance. The tab didn’t do it for me and so I asked him to spritz my wrist, which he did. I always think parfums are for women, and it may be so for Tomas Maier’s First Fragrance. But this may be an exception.

Top notes: bergamot, pink pepper
Heart: Jasmine
Base: patchouli, oak moss.
Guests (that's Simon Doonan on the far left) chatting in the mansion's garden.

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