Thursday, October 09, 2014

Fall Fashion Kool-Aid: Cocktails with the Countess

LuAnn de Lesseps the "Countess"
All photos Laurel Marcus

Is it Cavalli or is it Countess Collection? That was the question I shockingly asked myself last night at the preview party for LuAnn de Lesseps Fall/Holiday 2014 Countess Collection: Styled for Living which was held at the glorious Top of the Strand Hotel on West 37th Street. The ultra-affordable ready-to-wear will premiere on ShopHQ , this Friday, October 10 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, October 11 at 12 PM CDT (which means 9 p.m. and 1 p.m. if you're on the east coast) and marks the Countess' second collection (spring/summer 2014 was the debut) on the relatively fledgling (since 1991) Minnesota-based shopping channel. It will be part of a 24-hour Fashion Day event for the QVC-inspired station which has lured over some of the larger online shopping channel's former employees. According to Rebecca Hoffman, Senior buyer of Relevant Sportswear, the Countess Collection's higher priced offerings sold out with much more alacrity during her first showing than many of the items at a lesser price point that are featured on the channel. They are expecting an even bigger purchasing audience this time around.   If "Elegance is learned" then perhaps this is continuing education.

Fall/Holiday 2014 Countess Collection

There were so many exciting aspects to last evening's event (spoiler alert: I'm not referring to the clothing) that I don't know where to start. First of all, for those living without basic cable or internet access (yes, that means way under a rock), LuAnn is an original Real NYC Housewife from back in the day when she was actually married to the Count and the Housewife franchise was campy but cool. She had a recurring role this past season and is rumored to be back in the fold full time for the upcoming one but I could not get that fully confirmed in our conversation It is for certain that she's got the "esses" on her side (stunning, statuesque, smart and sly). I find that some great beauties, for instance Heidi Klum, really radiate and come alive in front of the camera while others look even more striking in person and LuAnn is, IMO, the latter.

The view

Cue more magical touches: the locale couldn't have been better (beautiful balmy night, rooftop bar, amazing reach-out-and-touch-it view of a full-ish moon and the Empire State Building all done up in neon pink tribute to Breast Cancer Awareness Month), specially concocted drinks (more about that later), lobster hors d'oeuvres, interesting company including past and present cast members Kelly Bensimon and Carole Radziwell, as well as Rob Shuter ( gossip columnist extraordinaire of "Naughty But Nice"), and actress Marilu Henner. At the end of the evening LuAnn's son Noel (avec skateboard) and daughter Victoria made an appearance to support their mom. But I'm getting way ahead of myself...


As I alit off the elevator to the rooftop bar I held my breath. The Countess posing against the NYC backdrop, hair waving in the breeze of nature's very own wind machine as if she had left detailed instructions with God on just how she wanted it to blow, was a sight I doubt I will ever forget. She wore a black and leopard print long sleeved jersey dress that was very reminiscent of a Roberto Cavalli frock that I actually own (okay, it's a Just Cavalli, his lower priced line, but still...) and stood in that perfect model stance somewhere between a ballerina in second position and Lisa Fonssagrives modeling for the pages of Vogue. I suddenly needed a drink and one was quickly proffered by hovering "elevator waiters" in the form of a "Countess Martini." I took one sip of the clear, lime topped concoction and as the Brits would say "pulled a face." If there is such a thing as liquid "Double Bubble" this is what I imagine it would taste like. I placed my glass on a railing and braced myself for an introduction to the Countess herself.

Carole Radziwill, LuAnn de Lesseps

Up close she is no less than perfect. I told her I thought her dress was Cavalli and we had a laugh over that as her clothing is mostly priced under $100 while an RC doppelganger could go for about 20 times over. She modeled a black jersey cape (also shown on a mannequin in camel) which struck me as slightly eerie because I had mentally searched my "mind's closet" (what? You don't have one of those? Ha!) for exactly that item before leaving home. It is the perfect lightweight layering piece to throw over a dress or pants outfit in this temperate weather when a coat or even a wool cape is just too much. I asked the author/singer/etiquette expert how she came to design clothing. "It all came from the show and having to get dressed and constantly shopping for things. We don't have stylists (adding that even if they did, she would still be the one making the ultimate selections out of what was shown to her) or makeup artists (she had hers waiting in the wings and on call to do touch-ups last night) except for the reunion "couch sitting" shows and wear what we have from our own closets. These items were pieces that filled a gap in my wardrobe" she explained. Shown on the accompanying rooftop mannequins were a silver sleeveless sheath, a royal blue silk cut work neckline blouson top, a DVF - inspired (both the silhouette and the brown print called her line to mind) dress and a black streamlined zippered knit moto jacket and matching slim pants resembling workout gear. LuAnn chose wisely with her OOTD as I can't say that any of the other outfits looked the least bit enticing.

Kelly Bensimon with LuAnn

Hoping to prove that I was wrong and thinking that perhaps the other dresses would take on a completely different form on a warm (or at least not entirely molded plastic) body, I and another reporter tried to convince LuAnn to change into the silver dress via her publicist. It was not to be as the Countess emphatically declined our request. It's all "Chic C'est La Vie" as long as LuAnn calls the shots.When faced with meeting someone of the Countess's stature (and I'm not talking just her 5'10" without heels height) I find it's a good icebreaker if I have one question to fire off in case of emergency. I couldn't resist asking her if she had anyone in particular in mind when she wrote her infamous ditty "Money Can't Buy You Class." After roaring with laughter, she answered "Yes, more than one." I asked if that included the other Housewives and she said it might but she wouldn't name names. I promised I wouldn't tell tales out of Bravo but suffice it to say that this should be a rollicking season as some of the drama divas may be back for an encore performance. Did anyone say Skinny Girl Margarita? OMG...I may actually have to tune in again.

Noel de Lesseps, friend, Marilu Henner, LuAnn & Jack Rich

And finally, speaking of and back to drinks, I return to the beginning of the night and the offending syrupy martini. Upon hearing LuAnn rave about her martini I was puzzled and, trying to be diplomatic, told her I found it a bit too sweet for my taste. She asked if she might try mine and unbelievably, Girlfriend took a swig right out of my glass (I won't even sip out of my own kids beverages)! Agreeing that it tasted like bubblegum (the waiter called it strawberry kiwi) she expeditiously sashayed, belly, make that thigh-up-to-the bar and asked the bartender to whip up a batch of citrus martinis to replace the cloying concoction. She made sure I got one. After all, they were promoting it as her special Countess libation and it must be on point or at least palatable! My new BFF commented on my earrings as they had come from one of our mutual favorite costume jewelry boutiques and then told me I needed to repair to the ladies to fix a corner where my lipstick had smeared. (Note to self: throw out that lipgloss!) Anyway, what are besties for if not to tell you these things? I'm thinking that it's just a matter of time til I make my Housewives debut. Hook me up with the black cape!

- Laurel Marcus

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