Thursday, September 10, 2015

Word gets around

Looking south along Park Avenue from 63rd Street. Photo: JH.
Thursday, September 10, 2015. Oppressively hot and humid yesterday, with people complaining about the heat and feeling kinda ill. Until late afternoon when there was a single very brief (brief enough that I was sitting at my desk and never noticed it) shower. After that the temperature and the humidity dropped noticeably, making life a lot easier for almost everybody, as well as for the power grid.

I went over to Lincoln Center for the annual Couture Council luncheon which benefits the Museum at FIT. This year they were honoring Manolo Blahnik.
The main course by Olivier Cheng (clockwise from upper left): Tortilla Espanol; a stuffed beet with tuna; white asparagus with cotija cheese, and delicious shrimp, baked.
Traffic all across was horrendous. On my avenue, there is very stressful (noisy, street space-occupying) construction going on, and will be going on bang-bang-bang for months. The first day of school, I was told by a cabbie, made today’s horrendous traffic. I can think of a couple other reasons but I’ll save them for a rainy day.

The Couture Council of the Museum at FIT launched this luncheon 10 years ago. I don’t know if they were the first co-chairs, but Liz Peek, Yaz Hernandez, Charlotte Moss, and Sarah Wolfe got it off and running. The first year it was held at Brasserie 8 ½, the subterranean restaurant at 9 West 57th. Ralph Rucci (who is an FIT grad) was the honoree. 
Yaz Hernandez, Chair of the Couture Council, welcoming the honoree.
Dr. Valerie Steele, curator and director of the Museum at FIT.
Uma Thurman introducing the honoree, praising his talent, adding how important she felt it was to her public life, with her, as she put it: "every step of the way."
The honoree, Sr. Manuel "Manolo" Blahnik Rodriguez, accepting the honor and briefly speaking of it with an emphatic "Thank You!"
Liz Peek told me they were “terrified that no one would come.” But they sold out. They were so impressed by its success that they decided to go for the Rainbow Room the second year (more $$$ requiring a bigger turnout). They asked Alber Elbaz, the legendary designer from Lanvin to be the honoree. The morning of the luncheon day, Alber was named by WWD as the Designer of the Year. He was mobbed at the luncheon by paparazzi. Everybody witnessed the hullabaloo. New York’s a small town; word gets around. The luncheon was now in the big time.

They held it on a Wednesday, the day that  kicks off “Fashion Week” only because that was the only day that Alber could attend. It happened to be a perfect relationship. Charity for fashion holds the fund-raiser on the official day of fashion week. Like Kate Hepburn said describing the secret of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: “she gave him sex and he gave her class.”
Peter Scotese with Maria Cooper Janis. Mr. Scotese is a longtime member of the college and former chair. It was he who recruited Liz Peek to the board with his eye on raising the profile of the Museum. He encouraged the Council's first active members to pursue that objective. Mr. Scotese is the only man on the Council's board.
When the tents moved from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center a few years ago, so too did the Couture Council luncheon.

So now they “own” the date, and are on the social “calendar.” In recalling, Liz said “it’s been such fun – and we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate Valentino, Oscar, Karl Lagerfeld, Carolina, Michael Kors, Dries  Van Noten, Ralph Rucci, Alber and others. Amazing – and just terrific for FIT – raising millions of dollars for the Museum at FIT, a great boon to our students.”

And to the public. Eleanora Kennedy who was my hostess at yesterday’s luncheon told me the luncheon will pay for the next three annual fashion exhibitions that the museum produces annually.
Fe Fendi. Fern Mallis.
Jamee Gregory. Dr. Joyce Brown.
For the past several years – when the Fashion Week tents were at Lincoln Center in Damrosch Park – the luncheon was held in Avery Fisher Hall. This year they moved it to the Promenade in the David H. Koch Theater. The Tents are no longer as Fashion Week is occurring all over town. 

Co-chairs were Carole Divet Harting and Darcy Rigas. Honorary co-chairs were Joan Juliet Buck and Amy Fine Collins. Everybody was happy about Manolo being there. Valerie Steele, director of the museum at FIT pointed out that “it was Manolo who kicked off contemporary fashion’s obsession with shoes, as views of Sex and the City.”

Olivier Cheng catered the three-course luncheon that was presented in such a way that it seemed that Cheng was a bit of a fashion designer in his kitchen. The redoubtable events designer Bronson Van Wyck did the tables and the flowers. The luncheon was underwritten by the Spain Tourism Board.
That's Fe Fendi shaking Manolo's hand while point to his shoes. Crisscrossing the moment is Amy Fine Collins, an honorary co-chair, chatting with Anna Wintour, who was Manolo's right-hand lunch partner.
Hamish Bowles, Martha Stewart, and Susan Magrino. Sharon Bush and Linda Fargo.
Petra Nemcova. Marina Dobreva and Yaz Hernandez.
Valerie Steele. Ralph Rucci.
Uma Thurman presented Manolo with his award. After introducing him, he told us how much he liked New York City and how he found his customers inspiring (in so many words). From the looks of him, he could be a European banker with some flair. But when he speaks – directly, succinctly, and economically, you see that he is an artist, very sensible, practical, clever, witty, and all-business when business is the topic. So when it came to his expressing his appreciation for the Award, he said: “Thank you.” A relief for all and a very pleasant experience.

New York Fashion Week, as it’s officially called, has begun. Lisa Perry was at our table and was the first to leave because she was having her runway show at 3. The Baldwins, Hilaria and Alec were there, as was Anna Wintour as well as Camila Alves, Petra Nemcova, Martha Stewart (who was taking a lot of pictures for her daily blog). Usually the costume the ladies wear on that occasion is the work of the designer being honored. This year it had to be the shoes, no?
Nancy Brinker and Bronson van Wyck. Lisa Perry, leaving the lunch immediately after the speeches as she had her own runway collection of her line elsewhere at 3 p.m.
Anna Wintour and Manolo Blahnik.
Alec and Hilaria Baldwin.
Susan Gutfreund and Audrey Gruss. Lisa Boone, hatmaker. I asked her if that were her shoe she was wearing on her hat. Yes.
At my table, a reporter from Page Six, Peggy Siegal, and Susan Magrino. I don't know what Liz Peek (standing behind them) is looking at.
Fe Fendi with Noreen Buckfire.
Ellin Saltzman, Nancy Brinker, and Eleanora Kennedy.
Anna Kennedy Safir with her cousin Lindsay Caprioni, who is the top shoe designer at Vince Camuto.

Photographs by DPC & Will Ragozzino/BFA.com

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