Sunday, October 30, 2005

“Starry, Starry Night”

That there is absolutely no shortage of star power in the world was confirmed for the 22nd year in a row by Fashion Group International as ‘stars’ from the heavenly galaxies of stage, screen, fashion, beauty, publishing, real estate, architecture and commerce (did I leave anything out?) collided at Cipriani 42nd Street for the annual ‘Night of Stars’. Almost no other organization has been so focused on the ‘big picture’ from its inception and done more to celebrate and illustrate the way all these worlds so perfectly interact, merge, and support one another in this increasingly global universe of ours.

Fashion Group International (www.fgi.org) is a “non-profit association of over 6,000 professionals of achievement and influence representing all areas of the fashion, apparel, accessories, beauty, and home industries”, and from the beginning it has always taken the high road with an ambitious mission to inform, educate, enhance, enlighten and be relevant and timely. It was ‘conceived’ at a luncheon in 1928 with 17 women including Edna Woolman Chase, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, and formally became an organization in 1930. Among the group’s Founding and Charter members are such legendary icons as Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Arden, Claire McCardell, Carmel Snow, and Lilly Dache. While it began as a woman’s group, men are of course welcome and cherished members.

The annual ‘Night of Stars’, a New York tradition, was one of the first (if not THE first) fashion soirees to make such brilliant use of the celebrity factor, capitalizing on ‘star power’ in every category and predated the culture of celebrity, media blitz and paparazzi feeding frenzy that has since insued. It is one of the most highly anticipated and well attended events of the season, and has seemingly become more so each year. That the evening is about more than just looking good, but DOING good, is evidenced by the list of awards and star honorees. (What did you think Sandra Bullock and Donald Trump had in common that would have linked them together for the evening? Big hair? Well, that, and their humanitarian efforts and business acumen). Last Thursday night, with “The Romantics” as its theme (and yes, romance was palpably in the air what with all the lusciously dressed attendees air kissing under that beautiful Italian Renaissance inspired ceiling and the flickering candles casting a romantic and flattering glow on everyone), FGI paid tribute to the following:

Superstar Award: Valentino
Humanitarian Award: Sandra Bullock

Star Honorees:

Fashion: Alberta Ferretti
Ralph Rucci
Olivier Theyskens


Beauty: Pat McGrath

Architecture: William McDonough
Visionary Business Leader: Donald Trump

Fashion Oracle Award: Prosper Assouline

But while the gala is not only about jaw dropping gowns, let’s face it, it IS a fashion event after all and of course the requisite red carpet. So, what were the fashion trends of the evening? Black, black, and more black, (from lbd’s to floor length gowns and everything in between). And while young Bee Shaffer (Anna’s daughter) looked amazingly romantic in her floor sweeping and voluminous strapless Rochas gown designed by Olivier Theyskens (to whom she presented his award), some of the true knockouts were designed by another evening honoree, Ralph Rucci. Standouts included, fashion icon Deeda Blair’s architectural Rucci floor length trapeze shaped black coat; Sam Nguyen’s black feather trimmed midcalf dress (Sam is the wife of glove maker Daniel Storto and a design assistant to Ralph Rucci); and Joan Kaner’s truly beautiful bias cut satin 1 shoulder Rucci gown. By the way, Joan, who is set to retire shortly, took the stage to present Ralph with his award, and she has never looked better. Great arms!

And then there was red (coincidentally a Valentino signature) either worn alone or in combination with black. Regardless of how it was worn, it made a statement and stood out in the crowd. For example, while several guests chose glamorous long red gowns, Margaret Hayes (President of Fashion Group International), opted for a festive and eye catching Jeri Gerard red jacket worn over black pants. Even the men, who were predominantly decked out in classic tuxedos, were able to get into the act. Andre Leon Talley who presented Pat McGrath with her award, enlivened his tuxedo with the surprise of crimson red satin Manolo Blahnik slippers, and the host of the evening, the always witty and irreverent Simon Doonan, added a welcome hit of red to his tux with a vibrant red ruffled shirt.

Speaking of the men, all the honorees (and most male guests) looked elegant and dapper in their traditional tuxedos (personified by Valentino) but many gave it their own spin including honorees Ralph Rucci who left off the tie but artistically (of course) tucked a beautiful iridescent green scarf inside his perfectly fitted double breasted tuxedo jacket and added a matching mouchoir; and Olivier Theyskens, who replaced the black tie with white. With his long dark hair parted in the middle, beard, and slight frame, he looked more like a religious figure than a fashion designer.

And since furs are now de rigueur, worn long before the calendar formally announces winter, it was hardly surprising that so many women used small fur pieces (capelets, abbreviated jackets, stoles, vests) to cover their shoulders. The most popular color was white - white ermine, white fox, or white mink, as exemplified by Vera Wang clad Anna Wintour (her short white fur jacket topped a graphic black and white gown).

By the way, while much of the world is still dressing down, looking casual and wearing jeans with everything (to the chagrin of fellow guest James Galanos, who told November Harper’s Bazaar, “I try not to look anymore at what women wear for evening. It’s kind of disastrous what I see these days. It’s all jeans, jeans, jeans today with a $5,000 little blouse”), this crowd was predominantly dressed to the nines. While we are in a moment of ‘anything goes’ (for formal occasions, women can opt to wear long gowns, short dresses, tuxedos, or separates), to my way of thinking, the evening served to illustrate that when a woman wants to make a statement, make an entrance, or simply look divine, nothing is as effective as wearing something long (whether voluminous or narrow).

-Marilyn Kirschner

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