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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Night Vision

Stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin gets her party on...

This New York Fashion Week felt like the longest ever. And no wonder. When you do the math, it was actually ten days of wall-to-wall shows, all colliding with endless parties like bumper cars. There was no soft landing. For me, it began last Wednesday with show prep for two collections, followed by an exhibition by photographer Jesse Frohman at the Soho Grand. With so much happening day and night, I thought it best to break the week down into my highlights (the parties) and, in a following blog, lowlights (most of the shows)...

Sept. 4
I rushed with Vogue's Mark Holgate from an event at Christie's to catch the opening of curator Valerie Steele's Gothic exhibit at FIT. Although I consider myself pretty gothic, I had chosen to wear an elegant draped back evening dress-cum-jumpsuit by Martin Margiela, leaving my pointy shoulders for another night. Many of the guests really went all out with black taffeta dresses, brocade coats and even wigs, though I wasn't entirely sure whether some of them were dressed for the occasion or this was their daily attire. A distinctly musty odor of resurrected clothing wafted around the room, noticed by more than just myself—proof that these clothes were very much loved by their original owners. The show itself was really wonderfully done, featuring themes such as Night, Cage, Ruined Castle and Laboratory, where fashion “monsters” were born. Some of the best examples were by goth favorites Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tischi of Givenchy, Rick Owens, Hussein Chalayan and Anne Demeulemeester, all of whom revisit the theme in many of their collections. The show certainly deserves a second visit and should be on the to-do list of any aspiring designer, stylist or night-crawler.

I then gathered the troops, which now included Hint's Lee Carter and Aric Chen, as well as knitwear designer Tom Scott, and headed for the Interview party at Andre Balazs' anticipated new hotel, The Standard. We walked the red carpet that led us along a construction site (complete with orange caution tape), through an incomplete kitchen (hey, if La Esquina can do it), into a boarded-up elevator and up to the raw space on the 18th floor. In the company of Lauren Hutton, the journey felt somewhat auspicious. Everyone was overwhelmed by the near-360-degree view of New York. Spectacular! The unfinished space was cool to look at, but not at this temperature. As the who's who of the fashion and art worlds rubbed moist shoulders, all anyone could talk about was not the newly designed and relaunched magazine, but the searing heat. Adding fuel to the fire, there was plenty of hot Asian nibblies and alcohol to sustain the crowd of models, photographers and designers, which included Donna Karan, Maria Cornejo and Victoria Bartlett of VPL, not to mention the magazine's new editorial directors Glenn O'Brien and Fabien Baron (seen here with PR guru Karla Otto). The highlight of my evening was a performance by The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, with Kembra Pfahler and her girls performing in little more than colored body paint and enormous black wigs. They added to the New York feel, and they were certainly an appropriate nod to Andy Warhol and his original Interview. Our evening ended at Beatrice Inn for the birthday party of Chiara Clemente, graciously hosted by her boyfriend, actor and jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia. It seemed like many of the guests had rolled over from the previous party but were determined to kick up their heels and dance the first night of Fashion Week away. As I said, there was no soft landing.

Sept. 6
After a nightmare of a day, running from show to show in a torrent of rain like drowned rats, we decided to hang out and have some real fun with Alexander Wang at his after-party. The underground garage-like venue in a Tribeca alley felt particularly unpretentious and old-school. The bright raw venue was filled with a lot of gorgeous kids and models really getting into the music. On the invite there was a promise of a special guest, but nothing prepared me for the appearance of none other than Foxxy Brown, who was not only celebrating Alexander's collection, but also her birthday. From a tiny and low platform that barely cut through the crowd, she rapped and rapped, throwing the crowd into a frenzy. The energy was incredible. And she was clearly enjoying herself as much as we were, and promised to stay all night. That wasn’t exactly the case, but she certainly went beyond her required number of songs, dressed in a hot pink Wang dress. When I asked an elated Alex how he had managed to get her, he nonchalantly told me that he just put it out there and she responded. Judging by his show response and instant popularity, despite his young age, this kid is pretty good at doing just that. As the Alexander Wang party was nearing a close, we took our already weary feet around the corner to Santos for the United Bamboo/Journal magazine party. It was so dark that running into friends was usually a result of stepping on their feet or backing into them on an over-crowded dance floor. For music we were treated to Lizzy Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance, definitely a highlight. We never left the dance floor and we were soon joined by friends Magda Berliner, jewelry designer Philip Crangi, Felix Burricter from Pin-Up and photographers KT Auleta, Guy Aroch and Chris Clinton. They were all still at it when we rolled out well after 3 am and a little too tired to finish the evening at the Submercer for the Threeasfour after-party.

Sept. 7
The week belonged to Calvin Klein. Firstly, the company’s 40th anniversary celebration took place on the High Line, one of the most eagerly anticipated public spaces to open in New York in decades. The night could not have been more perfect, especially considering the downpour the day before, as the remains of hurricane Hanna tore through the city. The organizers of the reported $5 million event must have been chewing off their fingertips while pleading with Mother Nature to spare them. Their prayers were answered, and we managed to enjoy a piece of New York City history that not only looked fresh and clean but also smelled deliciously fragrant, thanks to the 7000 white roses that were planted along the sides. We entered through a temporary installation by minimalist architect John Pawson, who also designed the Calvin Klein flagship on Madison—so pure that it inspired commissions for monasteries and churches. The majority of my evening was spent outside on the High Line, suspended above the city on this magical flying carpet of white roses. The crowd was, of course, star-studded, from a fully clothed Eva Mendez, Djimon Hounsou, Brook Shields (appropriately in jeans) and Calvin Klein model Gabriel Aubrey to Halle Berry, Claire Danes, Kevin Bacon and Naomi Watts. Everyone was pretty much dressed in a minimalist color scheme of black, gray or white, mimicking the structure, as I had suspected. I chose to wear a vintage Hardy Amies long dress in tangerine. Photographer and original sartorialist Bill Cunningham, who never ceases to impress me, not only knew who the British designer from the 50s and 60s was, but also knew that he had been the designer to the Queen. I felt like one myself that night.

We had already all been escorted out of the dark and notorious Beatrice Inn by a bevy of fireman who closed down the clearly over-crowded Purple party. While some chose to hide in the kitchen until the coast was clear, most of us moved on to Club Sandwich at The Norwood. Club Sandwich is traditionally the closing party of Paris Fashion Week, and usually filled with fashion editors, fashionistas and models finally allowed to kick up their heels and let their hair down. The fact that the night was transported to New York, during the middle of the week, only created more buzz. The Norwood was an ideal venue for this party, a decadent townhouse with many rooms to fill with under-dressed strippers, over-dressed drag queens and extremely well-dressed queens. I caught up with many friends from London and Paris, and managed a long chat with old chum Alistair Mackie from Another Man before he and his boyfriend took to the stage for a striptease with the extravagantly dressed stylist Catherine Baba between them—a sandwich! After a few flings on the dance floor with Lee Carter, Hamish Bowles of Vogue and Armand Limnander of T, I retreated to an adorable little roof garden with British photographer Lawrence Passera to cool off. Men's fragrance was soon the topic of conversation as my friend, writer Adriano Sack, showed his other skills as a "nose," surprising Lawrence by identifying his rare scent.

Sept. 11
The V party was a highlight, but certainly not because it was held at the Mini Rooftop, a nightmarish location all week—in fact this choice of location could easily have reduced it to a lowlight. Despite the two-floor party space and open roof deck, the ridiculous 150-person capacity door policy was a total headache for a magazine that has many more than 150 friends and contributors. The real party took place downstairs on the street as many guests and even staff, including Brian Molloy and fashion editor Jay Massacret, were unable to enter. I waited at the front for nearly an hour, along with photographers Ellen von Unwerth, Marcelo Krasilcic and Todd Cole. Models were the DJs for the night, but even Natasha Poly and Shannon Glick were having a tough time at the door. When Lykke Li arrived with her band and entourage, there was near pandemonium. Visionaire editor James Kaliardos came downstairs several times to hand-pluck his guests. Thus, I made it up, along with stylist and friend John Hullem and a few of the aforementioned photographers. Although the party was on the street, I was glad I went up as I was eager to see the band. I had previously met Swedish singer Lykke Li at Stockholm Fashion Week in July. She did not disappoint.

Sept. 12
Although we all limped to the end of the week, with feet full of blisters from shoes too high or too tight, Costume National's closing party was a truly special treat. The fete was in honor of photographer and director Steven Sebring, who'd devoted the last ten years to making a documentary about Patti Smith. Not only were they both present, but Patti actually performed a few chosen songs mere feet from me. It was an incredible and emotional performance, though it was odd seeing her perform in a brightly lit store full of people more eager to indulge in wine, canapés and chatter. I felt pretty embarrassed by some people's behavior, but once I was up front with fellow diehards Ryan McGinley (who constantly hugged me in disbelief), Magda Berliner, Carla Wachtveitl from Yohji Yamamoto and Tania Ruhnke from KCD, I was fully transported. Patti's voice rang true, authentic and unchanged by the years. Her style was equally timeless and as directional as any of this week's shows. She wore Costume National men's pants, an Ann Demeulemeeester shirt and leather boots, a skinny tie and a plastic-wrapped toothbrush from Duane Reade peeking out of a jacket pocket!

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