The beginning of the Autumn fashion season

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The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT hosted its annual Luncheon on the Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater. Photo: DPC.

Thursday. September 5, 2019. It was a sunny, sometimes briefly cloudy yesterday in New York. The resurgence of the city after the holidays felt like Autumn coming in although the temperatures were like August going out – mid-80s with humid adding to the heat. But it wasn’t too much or unpleasant.

But it’s a long, long while,
From May to December,
But the days grow short,
When you reach September….

Walter Huston, starring in Knickerbocker Holiday. 1938 Broadway Playbill.

It was called “September Song,” and written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson for the for the Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday, which opened on Broadway October 19, 1938 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. Ethel Barrymore is long forgotten or unknown today although she was also the great-aunt of Drew Barrymore. Walter Huston, who introduced it was a famous movie and stage in his day, and also father of John Huston the director, and grandfather of Angelica Huston, Tony Huston, Danny Huston, and Allegra Huston. The book of the show was about tales of old New York written by Washington Irving. Walter Huston played Peter Stuyvesant who was last head of the Dutch colony on Manhattan island, known then as New Netherland.

While “September Song” and Walter Huston is practically unknown to the most recent two or three generations of Americans, mid-20th century it was one of the classics of the American songbook. Sinatra recorded it among others. But the touching version is the original stage recording of Mr. Huston. Get’s to you. I always think of it and his version (singing in my head) around this time.

Yesterday at noon, I went down to Lincoln Center where the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT was hosting its annual Luncheon on the Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater. The 2019 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion honoree this year was the world famous footwear designer Christian Louboutin.

The honoree, Christian Louboutin, surrounded by Dr. Valerie Steele, Amelia Quist-Ogunlesi, Melissa Mafrige-Mithoff, Dr. Joyce Brown, Julie Macklowe, and Kamie Lightburn.

The invitation was called for 11:30 and a 12 noon sitdown. I got there at 12:25, not with intended tardiness but knowing that these big events don’t get fully seated right away. Although I was relieved when I opened the doors into the lobby of the theater to see that Martha Stewart was at the seating table getting her assignment. Great minds think alike. Just kidding.

At table: left, the honoree, next to his friend Priyanka Chopra Jonas. The woman on her left is none other than her mom, Madhu Akhouri Chopra. Above her, Linda Fargo of Bergdorf’s is getting a big hug from Diane von Furstenberg. On the far left standing is Valerie Steele. Next to her is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and then Jean Shafiroff, and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright. Behind the photo opp are two characters heading for the first time to their table. The tall one in jacket and tie is yours truly watching Martha Stewart warmly greeting somebody.

Martha and I coincidentally were guests of Eleanora Kennedy (and we had been last year and the year before and the year before) so we walked up to the mezzanine together. I asked her if she were wearing her Louboutins, figuring she probably was as was possibly every woman at the luncheon. That’s part of the draw.

The napkin in Louboutin red.

Martha acknowledged that she was, and mid-stair she stopped and lifted her foot to show the sole of the shoe. It was black. Louboutin’s trademark is his red sole on all of his shoes (hence all the red in the room). I knew she knew that. Did he know she did that? “I had them painted black, but Christian knows,” she said.  I think she may have told me “why” but it didn’t matter: she’s Martha Stewart just like he’s Christian Louboutin. Same idea; creative masters.

Eleanora Kennedy and Martha Stewart.

Up on the Promenade it was a big crowd, maybe the biggest. We found our table and the starter had just been served: “Tarte Tatin Aux Tomates” (caramelized onion, chevre, Nicoise olives, herb salad, saffron aioli). Menu provided by Oliver Chang as well as interior design of the event by van Wyck & van Wyck.

Dr. Joyce Brown, the President of FIT, welcomed the guests, pointing out that this year was the 75th anniversary of the school. Founded in 1944, she told us that the first class of fifty applicants attended classes in small borrowed classrooms around the city. Today its enrollment is 9,000 students!! Dr. Valerie Steele, the dynamic director and chief curator who has built The Museum at FIT into the world class museum it is today, took the podium to announce that the event had raised more than $1 million to support the museum, to further help mount world-class exhibitions of fashion, acquire important objects for its permanent collection, and organize public programs. This was a record. Today, FIT’s fashion exhibitions are widely attended and assisted by the top designers of the world.

Dr. Joyce Brown.
Dr. Valerie Steele.

After Brown and Steele, Jamie Nordstrom, President of Stores, Nordstrom, INC. was introduced as a major supporter of the museum shows. Mr. Nordstrom who is son of the chain’s founder wanted to tell us that Nordstrom is coming to New York very soon (days? months? I’m nlot sure, but soon) with their own store on the West Side. Nordstrom has been a major purveyor of Louboutin footwear for a long time.

Jamie Nordstrom.

There were brief remarks by Melissas-Mithoff and Amelia Ogunlesi presenting the Award to Xin Yi Zhao.Then Priyanka Chopra Jonas came to the podium. The beautiful Indian actress talked first about the honoree who is a good friend of hers. She met him first in India where he does a lot of work. The relationship grew into a friendship over the next few years. She said of her friend, “When we wear these shoes it’s a sense of achievement and a sense of pride.”

Amelia Quist-Ogunlesi, Xin Yi Zhao, and Melissa Mafrige-Mithoff.

The actress has a warmth and quiet sense of humor about her. She also possesses a natural and attractive sense of herself. She also talked about what it was like to wear her own custom pair at her recent wedding to Nick Jonas. “Last year I happened to get married … I tried to keep it a secret.” (Uh-huh). Recalling the day: “When I put my feet into those shoes at the most important moment in my life I felt at ease, I took a breath, and felt beautiful.”  I thought to myself, there it is: why the women in the room love M. Louboutin’s shoes.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Next came the honoree himself. A youngish-looking man, serious yet an obvious sense of humor in his eyes and bearing – he moves quickly, directly but with an ease as to seem casual.  In accepting the award, he expressed a number of thanks to different individuals.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas leads the honoree to the podium.

Then he explained that when thinking about making this acceptance, he didn’t know what the hell to say. I was relating. And it made him very nervous; after all, he is an artist, a designer, not a speechmaker. Yeah, exactly Christian.

He told us this with a wry but honest smile. Then he modestly explained: “The French don’t do speeches…we barely say thank you.” His plain honesty was refreshing and amusing.

“The French don’t do speeches …”

So after a few more thank yous, he got back to that problem of coming up with a speech. He explained how he was passionate about his work and loved his friends and clients who have supported. So he decided to make the speech as a marking the occasion as a wedding of sorts between his passion for his work and FIT, acting as the ‘Best Man’ dedicated to the bride (FIT) and groom (his passion).

“I remember [FIT] always as dedicated, hardworking, and obsessed with fashion … always ready to share her knowledge with everyone for free,” said Louboutin.

Monsieur Louboutin was a “Shoe-in” with this crowd.
Speaking of his shoes …

Then after expressing more thanks to others, he expressed deep gratitude toward his dear friend to whom “I sold my first collection of shoes in America — from the table of her dining room,” adding, “I’d like to share this award with her, my friend Diane von Furstenberg — I share but I keep it,” he noted with that wry smile.

DVF congratulates her good friend.
Her good friend returns the favor.

A very successful first day of the Autumn season for the Museum at FIT and for the launch of Fashion Week in New York once again!

Leaving the theater I decided to walk up Broadway for a few blocks. It was nice day for that and the street wasn’t too crowded. Then suddenly, just as I was about reach the southwest corner of West 72nd and Broadway, this woman of 21st century, no holds barred and no barred holds, appeared looking at her phone and walking ahead of me. At first I wondered about the hair color. Cotton Candy red maybe? Punctuating yesterday’s trip down the fashion corridor in New York today.

Photographs by Annie Watt & DPC.

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