Wednesday, September 09, 2015

In the Market Report: FIT Couture Council Award Luncheon

The "Artistry in Fashion" Award Honoring Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik and Dr. Valerie Steele
Photo: Bryan Beddel/Getty Images for Couture Council

So the footloose and fancy free summer days have come to an end, New York Fashion Week is underway, and as has been the case for the past 10 years, the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT has kicked things off in fittingly high style with their Artistry of Fashion Award luncheon, which took place at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center (alas, this will be the only fashion related event that will be held here I might add). This year’s well deserving recipient was the legendary Manolo Blahnik who was honored for his 40+ years designing some of the most fabulous shoes on the planet.

Dr. Valerie Steele and Candy Pratts Price in their Manolos
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner 

This event has become more high profile, more popular, and more well attended each year (over 1 million dollars was raised), and it’s a wonderful venue which, among other things, allows you to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen all summer (in addition to making some new ones). I suppose you can call it the chic grown up version of back to school (yesterday was in fact, the first day of school for many of the cities’ children; you know: new books, new pens, and new clothes).

Anna Wintour, Manolo Blahnik, Carolina Herrera
Photo: Bryan Beddel/Getty Images for Couture Council

Speaking of clothes, this is as good an excuse as any, to get dressed up. And as one would assume, this knowledgeable and fashionable crowd (which included Anna Wintour, Glenda Bailey, Amy Fine Collins, Stefano Tonchi, Linda Fargo, Simon Doonan, Hamish Bowles) tends to take into consideration the year’s honoree when making their sartorial choices.

Ralph Rucci
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Past honorees were Ralph Rucci, Alber Elbaz, Isabel Toledo, Dries Van Noten, Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, and Carolina Herrera. Ralph, the first designer to be so honored, was in attendance and I had a chance to catch up with him. As you know, he is currently working on his couture collection - can’t wait to see that!- and when I asked him whose work he admires; he was quick to name Josephus Thimister (who is not currently designing), Rick Owens, and Yohji Yamamoto, specifically citing pieces from his current fall 2015 collection.

Suzi Cordish wearing a cast and a Manolo Blahnik pump
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

To be sure, this is one of those events where everyone checks one another out from head to toe (in a nice subtle way of course), and while accessories are scrutinized every bit as much as one’s ensemble, given the special talents of Manolo, this was the first time so many kept looking downward to the floor in order to see what shoes their fellow guests were wearing. (No doubt, many were wearing a shoe by the man of the hour). FYI, it was also hard not to notice that one of the big ‘trends’ of the day, was wearing a cast. It seems quite a few people (including Kay Unger and Bill Cunningham) suffered leg or foot injuries this summer. This did not deter the legendary photographer or designer, and it didn’t stop several guests from wearing at least one Manolo on their good foot.

Fe Fendi's Manolos
Photo: Mrailyn Kirschner

Before a lunch of gazpacho and tapas (in honor of Manolo’s Spanish roots), Darcy Rigas, an Event Chair made her welcoming remarks. In addition to noting that this was in fact the 10th anniversary of this event, she observed that Manolo Blahnik, the “first shoe designer to be so honored”, can be credited with making “everyone obsessed with shoes.” She hailed his designs as “classical, whimsical, and elegant”.Elisa Sainz Ruiz, Director, Spain Tourism Board, talked about Manolo’s proud Spanish heritage. He was born in the Canary Islands, has a “strong connection to Spain” and is “an amazing ambassador”, she offered. Dr. Valerie Steele observed that “of the more than 50,000 fashion items in the Museum at FIT’s permanent collection, “more than 4,000 are shoes, and many are by Manolo Blahnik” (“they are the epitome of glamour and sex appeal” she said). FIT’s President, Dr. Joyce Brown ‘guessed’ that “almost every woman in attendance is wearing her Manolos” (“they are both comfortable and sexy”; “magical tokens of success and femininity”).

Uma Thurman
Photo: Bryan Beddel/Getty Images for Couture Council

The special guest Presenter was Uma Thurman, looking especially chic, thin, and very tall wearing a fitted black dress and black high heeled Manolo Blahnik sandals (she had to be over 6’5”). Before introducing “the man behind the brilliance”, and handing him his award, she joked that “he is the only man who has been with me every STEP of the way” (this got a lot of laughs). “In 1970, when Diana Vreeland saw some of his sketches, she told him that “he MUST follow his career path!” Like Uma, Manolo’s speech was short, sweet, and to the point. He admitted that he is “not good at public speaking” but quickly added, “It’s good to be here in New York, the city that made all my dreams come true.” “Thank you, thank you, thank you”, he exclaimed.

At the end, there was a raffle drawing (the prize was a trip to Madrid for two and two business class air tickets). Alas, while I did not win, my table mate was award winning dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler, and so I not only got her contact information, but some good advice. She was wearing high heeled Manolo Blahniks and told me she wears his high heels every single day, and that includes office hours (as the “shortest” in her family, she got used to wearing high heels at an early age and claims she can’t wear flats). I asked her what fashion shows she might attend this season, she rattled off Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Michael Kors (“my friends”). I told her my age and ‘boasted’ that I have never had any medical or cosmetic procedures (I was hoping she was tell me how ‘great’ I looked lol). Actually, she did say that my skin showed some signs of sun damage and reassured me that there are many things these days that can quickly and easily remedy the situation thanks to state of the art technology and cutting-edge developments in dermatology. And speaking about aging, upon leaving we were given a sample of vbeaute’s Intense Eye Serum and anti-age hydrating Lip Gloss.

- Marilyn Kirschner

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