Friday, September 30, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ® by Laurel Marcus

Sipping in the Surroundings at Sotheby's

 Henry Hudson's Sun City Tanning Exhibition
All photos by Laurel Marcus

You've heard of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but how about cocktails at Sotheby's? The auction house has become my Cheers -- ("You want to go where everybody knows your name") -- I actually joked with one of the event organizers that they must be sick of seeing me (anyway, I hope it was a joke, Lol). I always enjoy going there because a) I need to educate myself a lot more about Art (with a capital A), b) they have many interesting events if you are lucky enough to become a Sotheby's Preferred member and c) their headquarters are in easy walking distance from my home.

Sun City Tanning Exhibition Second
Second to left -- Henry Hudson, Dee Occleppo, Tommy Hilfiger

Tuesday night was an open house of sorts with multiple galleries on multiple floors on display, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a live band. On the second floor I checked out a featured exhibition (until October 14) entitled "Sun City Tanning," artist Henry Hudson's New York debut exhibition of eight unique jungle inspired works. Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Occleppo Hilfiger were the hosts for Brits Henry and brother Richard Hudson (who made the accompanying equally colorful and interesting pottery).

Sun City Tanning Exhibition

Henry (who has no bridge he can sell you) described these enormously intricate works made of "hallucinogenic," three-dimensional, multi hued, custom colored plasticine (a Play-Doh-like material) and wire, as a 24-hour representation of the same scene. Each piece features a two-hour time window which the artist seeks to recreate from daybreak, dusk and finally, nightfall. The name "Sun City Tanning" apparently refers to his UK studio geo-tag location, right next to a tanning salon on the outskirts of London. In these works, the jungle is meant to evoke "the human condition, creating an Edenic environment that challenges the viewer with a tantalizing dilemma of danger and desire." (See pictures)

Personal Art Collection of David Bowie

At the other end of the second floor is another fascinating exhibition: Bowie/Collector, The Personal Art Collection of David Bowie which is on tour featuring some of the items to be in the Sotheby's London three part auction on November 10th and 11th. Musician/Actor/Icon David Bowie kept the fact that he was a collector of art mostly private (much like the fact that he himself was a painter), yet his collection benefits from his vast "knowledge and understanding" as well as a "good eye."Unsurprisingly for someone who took on many different personas in his lifetime, Bowie's collection is quite diverse.

Damien Hirst with David Bowie, beautiful, hallo, space-boy painting, 1995

It includes a few relatively obscure British artists of the 20th Century (who he liked to promote) as well as others of international renown some of whom he collaborated with either in film, music or painting such as Damien Hirst and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1984

His collection includes paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture and accessories, the latter include selections from Architect Ettore Sottsass, an early proponent of the 1980's Memphis movement. (View slideshow)

The panel of "Women in Fashion" -- Lauren Covello, editor of Fortune Venture,
 Nanette Lepore, Rachel Antonoff

On the 10th floor, along with the band and a very colorful candy bar, was the multi-room gallery of Contemporary Curated artists (the auction was yesterday) which I breezed through. (Click here for more informationAs part of the first ever Fortune's Women of Influence Week at Sotheby's, I frequented a few events last week, including one for "Women in Fashion" featuring guest speakers Designers Nanette Lepore and Rachel Antonoff. Here we were privy to a conversation on coming-up in the fashion industry from Lepore's first shop on the Lower East Side located between a soup kitchen and a gas station to having a national brand sold at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom; to moments when they knew they'd "arrived" such as Antonoff seeing her dress on Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) on the "Sex and the City" movie (it's the striped dress in a scene in Mexico when she throws her cell phone into the ocean).

Lepore gave advice to those starting out in the fashion biz ("start small...don't do a runway a trade show," adding that she didn't do a runway show until she was in business for 10 years). Antonoff spoke of how she is thankful that social media didn't exist when she was really beginning her career ("If I had had access to the cast of "Rent" on Twitter I would have embarrassed myself.")

Antonoff recounted how she had become rather inadvertently entered in the 2016 political fray by creating a take-off of "I'm with Stupid" (which became "I'm With Her" to support Hillary) with slogan t-shirts back in 2011 or 12. "Someone (from Hillary's campaign) called and said 'heads up'" was how she eventually found out that her slogan had been adapted by the candidate herself. She also makes a "Not with Him" shirt which she admits is not selling as well -- "Which is nice -- people are positive," she quips. Other topics included trying to keep  manufacturing in New York as opposed to overseas (Lepore feels that the ability to control the product is worth the greater cost); gender equality (male designers are generally promoted by the CFDA over women designers); and dealing with the onslaught of fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara "exploding onto the scene." (Lepore handles these "monsters" by using "dialogue to find your customer and keep her engaged.")

During the pre-talk cocktail portion I told Ms. Lepore that I had given most of my "Nanette" to my corporate-job-holding-daughter (I had since purchased and was wearing Nanette's shoes which she immediately recognized); the designer mentioned that there is a "generational response to my brand" even attributing it to Millennials watching "The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" reruns. Lepore's lovely daughter Violet Savage, walked the runway at her mom's show for the first time in 2014 when she was 16 years old -- a moment her proud mom marks as one of her favorite memories.   Another example of youthful appeal and memory-making included a girl who got emotional during the Q&A thanking Lepore for making her "beautiful Bat Mitzvah dress."

Lepore, whose Spring 2017 collection was inspired by artist Laurie Fields' mythical and mysterious paintings, lives surrounded by art. She is married to artist Bob Savage who introduced himself to me as "the pushy husband" (she spoke of how he pushed her to go into business) but now expresses remorse because she is so busy that it's hard to find time to visit their Hampton's house. The couple is about to open up their NYC home as an art gallery for a second time -- a symbol of how the worlds of fashion and art enjoy their symbiotic relationship.

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Star-Studded Crowd Ushers In the Fall Opera Season

From left: Bartlett Sher director of Opera Romeo and Juliet, Bengt Gomer, Opera Manager Peter Gelb, Opera Soprano Nina Stemme, Ekaterina Gubanova & Rita Schutz
All photos: Lieba Nesis - click images for full size views

On Monday September 26, 2016 at 5 PM the Metropolitan Opera premiered its new production Richard Wagner's "Trisan Und Isolde." Celebrating its 50th year residing in Lincoln Center, the illustrious crowd which gathered for this opening night extravaganza included: actresses Malin Akerman, Keri Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Julianna Margulies, Dana Delany, Christine Baranski, Javier Munoz, Candice Bergen; business moguls Robert Smith, John Utendahl, Fred Iseman Michael Shvo; socialites Ann Ziff, Julie Macklowe, Mercedes Bass, Jean Shafiroff  among many others.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

I eagerly await this event every year because of the phenomenal attire of the attendees and the excitement surrounding the new opera season. When Wagner first started working on "Tristan" in 1857 he thought it would be a quick moneymaker.

Fred Iseman and Socialite Mercedes Bass

After experiencing ample bad luck it finally appeared on stage in 1865 with the public both reviling and adoring it. Whatever one's opinion, it has greatly influenced poetry, literature, painting and theater. Its heavy romanticism and endless melodies climaxing with Isolde's Liebestod has retained an overarching power in the cultural sphere.

Julie Macklowe in Dolce & Alan Dershowitz

This evening the opera was broken up into three acts and featured singing phenoms Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme who brought down the house. Entering the hall, I bumped into Alan Dershowitz who was in the standing section. When I asked him if the legal profession was that unrewarding he replied, "No I just didn't want to spend the money on a seat since I am leaving to watch the debates after the first act."

Camilla Staerk in her own design & Helena Christensen in YSL

Alan is one of those concerned jews who said he hoped Obama, as a lame duck President, would not make the "undemocratic" choice of forcing the French proposal of a two-state solution on Israel and the incoming President. Alan was also looking forward to seeing Trump's acumen at debating-a skill that Dershowitz has down to a science.

Candice Bergen

I ran to my seat to catch the first act which lasted one and a half hours. This was a challenge for an opera novice who doesn't appreciate a German opera where every other word is "isht"- I much prefer Italian. A gala should be a crowd pleaser and I wondered why Peter Gelb, general manager of the Opera, didn't pick a more user friendly "Madama Butterfly" or "La Boheme."

Bengt Gomer and wife and lead soprano Nina Stemme

Nevertheless, the music and singing were flawless and the production was highly unexpected- astonishing the jaded audience. The story follows an ancient myth popular throughout medieval Europe concerning the illicit love of a knight and the wife of his king who is given a love potion that brings them together, ultimately leading to the knight's death.

Elizabeth Peyton in Vetements, Kristian Emdal, & Elias Ronnenfel

The opera takes place in Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany with a distinct romantic flair. The dark costumes and dreary sets containing heavy coats with badges, submarines, and jails left the audience baffled, resulting in them booing the production designers. A story about medieval castles with royal protagonists should contain lush surroundings and attire. Peter Gelb's modern sets and productions are aimed at attracting a younger audience as the opera continues to struggle.

Actress Dana Delany in Tom Ford & TV personality
Carson Kressley in vintage

During intermission, I bumped into television and fashion personality Carson Kressley who loves this event, "because it has great people, and great glamour with an element of kookiness." His favorite part of the night was all the "hot soldier guys" on stage - maybe I could attain a new appreciation for this art form. I responded, "basically you come to the opera to ogle hot guys" to which he replied, "yes."

Antoine Wagner-great, great grandson of Richard Wagner
& Emily Bromfield

Carson is coming out with a new book called "Does This Book Make My Butt Look Big" and said the key to fashion is having flawless fitting attire. On my way through the lobby, I bumped into perfectly attired Antoine Wagner, Richard Wagner's great great grandson, who was seeing "Tristan" for the second time this year and loved the wormholes depicted on stage. He managed to remain neutral on the rest of the production as we hurried off to Act Two.

Actress Julianna Margulies & Keith Lieberthal

At the conclusion of the five-hour ballet the performers received numerous ovations with the crowd especially loving Nina Stemme, Evgeny Nikitin, and Stuart Skelton. I had the chance to speak to Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia who is a paradigm of elegance and asked who designed his tuxedo. As befitting of a Prince he said he has a special tailor and then showed me the Pucci lining which was obtained from material provided by Emilio Pucci, a close friend of his mother's. My mother's close friend also has a pooch - but I guess we are not royalty.

Opera great Placido Domingo wearing Caruso

Dimitri is an avid fan of the opera and loves the music of Wagner. At the guests headed to the tent for dinner, the decor of mint green streamers hanging from the ceiling was breathtaking. The crowds gathered around soprano Nina Stemme but I was more interested in the man standing next to her named Placido Domingo whose thin frame and stylish Caruso suit made him unrecognizable. He lamented that he needed to lose more weight-revealing that no matter your level of fame girth continues to be a preoccupation.

left to right Andrew Saffir, Hamilton actress Betsy Struxness, Hamilton actor Javier Munoz,
Malin Akerman, & Daniel Benedict

The crowd was dazzling, with actors, directors and socialites conversing enthusiastically with each other as photographers snapped away. I spotted the current "Hamilton", Javier Munoz, who spoke about his modest upbringing in the projects and what a dream it was to be on a Broadway stage. He said he wouldn't trade it for anything recounting his most exciting moment as meeting Beyonce and Jay Z backstage - admiring them as "wonderful" people and performers. Tonight was a smash hit with a star-studded guest list and the magic of three things: Opera, Lincoln Center and my father.

- Lieba Nesis & father

Monday, September 26, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Radmila Lolly's Amazing First Collection

Radmila Lolly in her own design
All photos Lieba Nesis

Fashion For Peace held its World Fashion Parade featuring designer Radmila Lolly who was premiering her first collection at Gotham Hall. The doors opened at 7:00 PM and there was an enormous crowd waiting outside to view the collection many of whom were friends of Radmila's boyfriend, John Utendahl.

John Utendahl on the left

For those who don't know Utendahl he is the former owner of one of the largest African American owned investment banking groups in the United States and is currently Executive Vice Chairman of Bank of America Global Corporate and Investment Banking. Utendahl is always dressed in a magnificent suit perfectly complementing his 6 ft 6 in frame and "classy gentleman" is the only word that adequately describes him.

Lavender fringed pantsuit

He is also a financial whiz with much of the billionaire African American community choosing him as their investment advisor. Tonight he was glowing with the pride of a loving boyfriend as his statuesque girlfriend, Radmila Lolly, wowed the crowd. Radmila has the figure of a model and the creativity of a veteran designer, treating the crowd to her operatic voice while models paraded down the runway in her smashing attire.

 Green caped pantsuit

She showed a fluency and knowledge of fashion that is rarely seen in a fledgling designer with models in white and gold gowns looking elegant and award ready. Moreover, I loved the red, purple and green capes especially when accompanied with a pantsuit or shorts-this was high fashion meets high society.

Denim jumper with train

The denim jumper with a train was paradigmatic of the trend we are seeing of denim for the night which Herrera recently showcased and was a nice addition to the bold colored gowns. The fringed midriff-baring lavender pantsuit was a jaw-dropper with the crowd bursting into applause-this was sexy, and edgy with a modern twist on the flapper trend.

diamond-caged dress

The last looks were executed to perfection with diamond caging accompanying a black ensemble and a white leotard-this kind of statement making clothing is worth the discomfort. The finale piece was a gold embroidered jumpsuit with an angelic train - a heavenly conclusion to an excellent show produced by a novice in the industry who is headed for an illustrious career.

- Lieba Nesis

Friday, September 23, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ® by Laurel Marcus

Proust's Muse The Countess Greffulhe: Beyond the Madeleine to La Mode

Gretchen Fenston and Patricia Mears
Photo: Lieba Nesis - click images for full size views

Elisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, the Countess Greffulhe, put the belle in Belle Epoque. Born in 1860 to poor but aristocratic parents, she became an extraordinary fashion icon of the 20th Century when she married the extraordinarily wealthy (but indifferent) Count Henri Greffulhe. Preferring to look "bizarre" rather than "banal," she only commissioned her robes from the great couturiers of the time including Worth, Soinard, Poiret, Lanvin, Fortuny, who would allow her input into the design process.

Elisabeth de Caraman-Chimay

Marcel Proust was so in awe of her beauty and presence that she became the inspiration for the fictional counterparts of the Duchesse de Guermantes, as well as the Princesse de Guermantes from his great seven-volume novel "In Search of Lost Time" aka "Remembrance of Things Past." As the queen of society she represented a perfect blending of aristocratic and artistic elegance; according to Dr. Steele, someone like Daphne Guinness would be close to a modern day version of Countess Greffuhle.

Lily dress created by House of Worth circa 1896

As I arrived at yesterday morning's press preview for "Proust's Muse The Countess Greffulhe" (now through January 7, 2017) at the Museum of FIT, I was greeted by a particularly ebullient Valerie Steele, who termed the exhibition "a real labor of love" that had run "way over budget." As Dr. Steele explained, it all started several years ago in Paris at a Christian Dior show when she ran into Olivier Saillard, director of the Palais Galliera, Musee de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, the repository of all things Countess Greffuhle.

House of Worth Tea Gown circa 1897

"From the moment that Olivier Saillard told me that he was planning an exhibition, I was determined that people in New York City would also have the opportunity to see masterpieces such as the "Lily Dress," to appreciate the life of a legendary fashion icon, and to understand how Proust helps us interpret the 'mute language of clothes.'" Steele was involved in that exhibition writing for the catalogue and Saillard will be attending this exhibition for the October 20 fashion symposium at FIT.

As you enter the anteroom of the exhibition, there are several photographs of the Countess (you would think her impossibly tiny waist was photoshopped!) and her family as well as a video of her twirling around in a gown. Steele is quick to point out photos of some of the benefactors of her largesse as she was also a great philanthropist and pioneering fundraiser for the arts and sciences.

Charles Frederick Worth garden-party dress circa 1894

These include supporting Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, the composer Gabriel Faure, Scientist Marie Curie and oddly for someone of the aristocracy, Armed Forces Officer Alfred Dreyfus. Here you will find a photo of her at the opera with the quote "I don't think that there is any pleasure in the world comparable to that of a woman who feels that she is being looked at by everybody...How can you live when one can no longer provoke this great anonymous caress, after having known and tasted it." Interestingly, despite her narcissism, she would have hated the paparazzi -- although Proust often asked her for a photo she would never oblige as she believed photos weren't to be given to "outsiders."

Felix day dress circa 1895

The mirrors are used to great effect in the main exhibition room -- the famous Lily dress is positioned perfectly before a mirror while two gowns that were too fragile to put on mannequins are displayed in custom built cases with mirrors strategically hung, allowing one to view the garment from another angle. As a young woman, The Countess preferred pinks, mauves and lilacs as seen in the Soinard day dress and the Worth garden party dress which she wore at her uncle's (Count Robert de Montesquiou) party where she first met Marcel Proust (then freelancing as a social writer), who later dubbed his character Odette, the mysterious "lady in pink."

Charles Frederick Worth cape & House of Worth Byzantine gown 1904

She also favored the color green to set off her auburn hair, as evidenced in a House of Worth tea gown and a Felix day dress of green shot silk taffeta. Long before Andy Warhol made his quip, Countess Greffuhle was the queen of the 15-minute dramatic appearance -- perhaps after that she wanted to let loose her corset?

Oriental inspired gown

Later fashions were inspired by the wave of "Orientalism" (not a politically incorrect word in those days) which was ushered in by the Ballet Russes and other eastern influences. Also on display is the House of Worth gold "Byzantine Gown" which she wore in a photo opportunity at the top of the stairs, upstaging her daughter on her wedding day. Next to this showstopper, a cape from Bukhara which she had transformed by the House of Worth, is displayed.

In her later years (she lived until 1952, age 92) The Countess primarily dressed in black and cream, and of course, the silhouettes had changed dramatically to more modern day proportions. Her style remained flawless as illustrated by a Jeanne Lanvin "brick effect" coat with fur trim. Dr. Steele pointed out that between the wars, female designers were all the rage although Chanel and Schiaparelli were unlikely candidates since they would have insisted that things be made their way.

Jean Shafiroff & Ike Ude at evening reception
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Accessories were quite important to The Countess as evidenced by a display case of various hats, elbow length embroidered, embellished and poufy topped gloves, red brocade Lagel-Meier shoes (all the shoes remind me of those of the now shuttered Peter Fox who made my wedding shoes) and decorative painted fans of ivory and tortoiseshell. Unfortunately, the Bird of Paradise chapeau had to remain in Paris, as Steele admits, there's a limit to what you can get through customs.

Lucia Hwong Gordon, Lauren Roberts, Yaz Hernandez, Amy Fine Collins,
Valerie Steele, and Dennis Basso at the evening reception
Photo: Lieba Nesis

As members of the press along with Laure de Gramont the great great granddaughter of The Countess,  and others who had flown in from France marveled at how these special frocks had remained so well preserved through time and careful conservation, Dr. Steele mentioned that this is the only fashion collection that has been recorded in literature.  "Fashion is central to time and art in Proust and Countess Greffulhe was a big inspiration." The exhibition also serves as a reminder of "the individual wearer as a corrective against the idea that it's all the designer."

Kyla Malbon and Victor de Souza at the evening reception
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Perhaps it's best summed up by Proust's "Countess inspired character" Princesse de Guermantes. "I shall know I've lost my beauty when people stop turning to stare at me," she says. To which another character replies, "Never fear, my dear, so long as you dress as you do, people will always turn and stare."

- Laurel Marcus

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Friars Club Honors Scorsese With Star-Studded Tribute 

Robert De Niro Leonardo DiCaprio Jonah Hill. Harvey Keitel and Grace Hightower
Photo: Lieba Nesis - click image for full size view
The Friar's Icon Award was given to Martin Scorsese on Wednesday September 21st at Cipriani Wall Street with the show beginning at 7:00 PM. An A-list crowd including Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Sacha Baron Cohen, Fifty Cent, and Regis Philbin paid homage to the 73-year-old director who has given us classics such as "Raging Bull", "Goodfellas" and "Casino." Scorsese joined previous illustrious recipients Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Douglas Fairbanks, Cary Grant, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra-he is the seventh winner in the Friar's 100-year history.

The venue

The night also honored famed real estate broker Kurt Rappaport and coffee producer Massimo Zanetti who were paid tribute to before the Scorsese festivities. Zanetti spoke in Italian with a translator present and said he loved America, explaining that fifty percent of his sales come from the United States. Rappaport was introduced by the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest joking that he often sits in Rappaport's bathroom watching him apply creams and masks to his youthful looking face. Rappaport gave a gripping speech on his son's near-death brain injury telling us of the importance of devoting time and energy to charity endeavors.

After these heady speeches, we were treated to the entertainment portion of the evening with emcee Larry King joking that Scorsese was directing a new movie called "Woodfellas" about old men on Viagra and that when 100 women were asked if they would sleep with Bill Clinton 67 replied "Never Again." As the evening progressed, we were treated to entertainment by Steve Tyrell, David Sanborn, Kristin Chenoweth doing a moving version of Scorsese's favorite song "Smile", Soprano Anna Netrebko bringing down the house with her aria, and Diana Krall and Elvis Costello.

However the star of the evening, aside from Scorsese, was Sacha Baron Cohen whose hysterical routine made him the talk of the night. He started off by complaining about the length of the program imploring the organizers "to put the legendary film director [Scorsese] before the real estate broker [Rappaport] next time." He then stated that he was offered the part of "Wolf of Wall Street", a Leonardo DiCaprio biopic, but instead chose to star in the dud "Hugo"-a decision he now regrets. Cohen's timing and delivery were impeccable calling Scorsese one of the top directors of gangster films "excluding all the Godfather movies and Scarface" leading him to conclude that he was in at least the top thirty.

This engaging repertoire was hard to match with Olivia Wilde, Ellen Burstyn, and Juliette Lewis choosing a more serious path by extolling Scorsese for assigning them parts that women in Hollywood are often excluded from.  DiCaprio similarly praised Scorsese for being his "personal mentor" whose name was synonymous with master filmmaker. Watching DiCaprio and Jonah Hill conversing with De Niro and Keitel was one of those great Hollywood moments and the photographers went wild.

Finally, Robert De Niro paid tribute to his friend stating that the word "icon" has become meaningless due to its overuse and that Scorsese joins an illustrious group of three dead guys, two old guys and the Church of Scientology. De Niro joked that he and Scorsese were the token non-jews of the club and he was sick of being served whitefish salad. De Niro reminisced about his collaborative effort with Scorsese on eight movies lamenting that there were no new movies in the past 20 years because of DiCaprio.

At the late hour of 11:00 PM Scorsese received his award thanking the Friars club for recognizing him as an entertainer - the award was the Entertainment Icon Award. He joked that this was all an elaborate conversion ceremony to become Jewish and laughed enthusiastically while Larry King and De Niro stood on stage stone-faced. When Larry King asked all the night's performers to join him for one last encore most of them had left - 11:30 is way past any upstanding Friar member's bedtime.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

The New York City Ballet Raises Over $2.5 Million in Record-Breaking Gala

Bal de Couture with costumes by Valentino
All photos: Lieba Nesis
(Click images for full size views)

The New York City Ballet (NYCB) held its 2016 Fall Gala on Tuesday September 20th with cocktails starting at 5:30 PM. This is my fifth year going to this annual happening; and I must say this year surpassed all others.  There were a number of firsts that added to the excitement starting with the appearance of Broadway star Matthew Broderick who accompanied Sarah Jessica-a highly unusual occurrence.

Matthew Broderick

In fact after hearing about the Jolie-Pitt split and seeing Broderick turn up with a very young looking blonde-I was thankful it was Sarah Jessica Parker-this woman ages in reverse. Parker was wearing Narciso Rodriguez and her faux "Sex and the City" boyfriend Aleksandr Petrovsky aka ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov, was also in the house.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Narciso Rodriguez

Some other thespians included Diane Kruger, who is quickly becoming a fashion icon, wearing a puffy sleeved Giambattista Valli dress and Julianna Margulies running by in a black dress by "Self Portrait". Another first was the introduction of choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Peter Walker and Lauren Lovette creating their first works for NYCB.

Diane Kruger in Giambattista Valli

As I entered the lobby, a display of couture ballet costumes including those crafted by Iris Van Herpen, Carolina Herrera and Sarah Burton greeted me on both sides. I was unaware tonight was celebrating the five-year collaboration of "Choreography and Couture" that began at the New York City Ballet in 2012 with Valentino's highly acclaimed costumes for "Bal De Couture" blowing the crowd away in 2012 with its' beautiful impracticality.

Costume designer Marc Happel with Nazee Moinian in Michael Kors

This evening had celebrated designers Narciso Rodriguez, Dries Van Noten, Jason Wu, and Rosie Assoulin continuing this tradition by designing the costumes in collaboration with genius Marc Happel. The list of socialites/philanthropists at the extravaganza, many of whom were dressed by the aforementioned designers, was overwhelming.

Jean Shafiroff in Victor de Souza with Victor de Souza
& Patricia Mears in Jean Yu

They included: Fe Fendi, Nazee and Joseph Moinian, Robert Kraft and Ricki Lander, Julia Koch, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Gilian and Sylvester Miniter, Ulla Parker, Emily Blavatnik, Jill and Harry Kargman, Anh Duong, and supermodels Anna Ewers and Constance Jablonski.

Left to right Choreographer Justin Peck, Catherine Beck in Carven, Ronald Beck
and Jeremy Bronfman

The ballet opened with a short film detailing the collaboration between choreographer Lauren Lovette and Narciso Rodriguez. Lovette said she enjoyed working with Narciso since he is all about "clean movement" and showcasing the dancer's bodies. Lovette is a 24-year-old prima ballerina and it was her first choreographed piece for the company. Peter Martins, artistic director, gave her one restriction and that was to make it a 15-minute piece.

Narciso Rodriguez

With her work "For Clara" Lovette used a cast of 17 dancers set to Robert Schumann's "Introduction and Concert Allegro, Op. 134." The piece was exciting and complex with Rodriguez's costumes allowing the dancer's to move swiftly without enhancing their appearance. After all Narciso is the guy who gave Carolyn Bessette a white slip dress to wear to her wedding in 1996.

 Sterling Hyltin in Rosie Assoulin with Richard Kielar
and Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa in Les Femmes

The next world premiere was "The Dreamers" and featured choreography by Justin Peck with costumes by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. A video was shown where we were told Dries was reclusive but used Mark Rothko as one of his guides for creating the costumes. Dries, who did not attend the ballet, said that he wanted to "surprise himself" as a designer. He surprised me with his lackluster color-blocked dress; however, dancers Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar regaled the audience with their romantic pas de deux adagio.

Editor Amy Astley in Peter Pilotto, with Elizabeth Tnt in Chanel,
 Mark Guidicci, and Chris Astley.

Following generous applause, designer Jason Wu and choreographer Peter Walker were featured in a film where they spoke of collaborating on "Ten in Seven" with costume designer Marc Happel stating that they both contained strong personalities. Wu said that he liked the modernism of the Walker choreography and sought to mimic this with his neon costumes combining them with lace to pay homage to the more traditional side of the ballet.

Rosie Assoulin with Zani Gugelmann and Leandra Medine
all wearing Rosie Assoulin

The Wu attire was my favorite in neon green, pink and blue with elaborate lace however, he did not sufficiently "Woo" me like Peter Copping and Zuhair Murad did in past years. During a brief intermission I bumped into Rosie Assoulin who had dressed Zani Gugelmann, Leandra Medine and herself for the gala in colorful, showstopping attire so I was excitedly anticipating her costumes featured in the last act.

Courtney Crangi and Jenna Lyons - both in J Crew

Marc Happel referred to Rosie as a "tornado" and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the second female choreographer of the night, said she loved working with her. This premiere entitled "Unframed" was all about the ladies with guest solo cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio performing with a soulfulness that was riveting - I found myself crying.

Anabella Murphy in Temperley, Dana Auslander in Alberta Ferretti
and Dori Cooperman in Oscar de la Renta

The costumes by Assoulin had the first dancers looking like stewardesses in blue and white ensembles, and the following dancers in blue and white underwear with flowing hair resembling Calvin Klein undergarment ads. Yes the dancer's bodies were beautiful but a bulge or two left out of the picture creates some mystery.

Dancer Amar Ramasar in Dries, Julia Koch in Oscar de la Renta
and dancer Zachary Catazaro

Just as I was about to leave, Sarah Jessica Parker appeared in a film heralding her brainchild - the 18 designers who have worked with a roster of 12 choreographers in combining fashion and dance.

Owner of the Patriots Robert Kraft with gala chairwoman
Ricki Lander in Narciso

Valerie Steele, director of FIT, said she especially enjoyed the 2013 costumes created by Iris Van Herpen with plastic shards corresponding to the musculature of the dancer's body and sequined boots worn over their pointe shoes.

Fe Fendi in Herrera and Olivia Flatto in Paule Ka

Tonight's designers produced no such spectacles however, in the final premiere we were once again treated to the lavish, elaborate and magnificent costumes that Valentino, the master, produced in 2012. The palette of black and white with red and fuchsia as accent colors combined with Valentino red in the underskirts and toe shoes was breathtaking.

Harry and Jill Kargman in Chanel

I wish Narciso, Wu, Assoulin and Noten had followed suit instead of producing practical, pleasant attire-who cares if the dancers can barely move. Sarah Burton and Peter Copping had the right idea when they created colorful gowns and furs in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Lisa Rinehart and Mikhail Baryshnikov

As the guests headed to dinner with surrounding trees and gold-set tables it was announced by dinner chairman, Ricki Lander, that they exceeded their goal by raising over $2.5 million. Peter Martins, then thanked Sarah Jessica and "hero" Marc Happel and all the choreographers for their great work before the crowd danced to the tunes of Madonna and Michael Jackson.

Supermodels Anna Ewers in Chanel & Constance Jablonski
in Jason Wu

If this night, which ushers in the upcoming gala period, is a harbinger of things to come then get ready for one of the greatest seasons in the City of New York home to the New York City Ballet.

- Lieba Nesis