feature, 2008’s top partiers

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nothing kept these tireless carousers down

2008 started with the writers’ strike and ended in recession, but neither could stop these insatiable merrymakers from following the fêtes to Florence, Moscow, Rio, and beyond.
— by Alison Baenen

Photo: Sherly Rabbani and Josephine Solimene

Humanitarian of the Year (With a Special Interest in the Welfare of MLB Players): Madonna
There was a time, not too long ago, when the best piece of scandal you could dig up on the Queen of Pop concerned her adoption of a Malawian toddler. The fashion week benefit she hosted at the U.N. in February fetched a cool $5.1 million for UNICEF and Raising Malawi, and boasted a guest list—Tom and Katie, Ashton and Demi, Gwen and Gavin—that could make a PR team weep with joy. “When Madonna asks you to do something, you do it. Full stop,” said designer Matthew Williamson. Conspicuously absent from the to-do (perhaps at her Madgesty’s request?) was then husband Guy Ritchie. We all know what’s happened since to Madonna’s squeaky-clean image, so you won’t be surprised when we tell you who was in attendance: A-Rod. That’s what we call 20/20 hindsight.

Photo: RD / Leon / Retna

Even Better Than Comic-Con: The Costume Institute “Party of the Year”

The oversize statues of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman that greeted guests at this year’s Costume Institute gala were no match for the night’s larger-than-life hosts: George Clooney, Giorgio Armani, and Julia Roberts. It was an A-plus-list crowd, to be sure, and most guests went for straight-out glam when it came to attire. But those who embraced the Superheroes theme, like the subtly bewinged Amber Valletta, did so with considerable aplomb, probably making some of the other gals wish they’d brought along their capes. Honorable mention goes to Gisele, whose skill with double-sided tape—which we assume kept her not-so-secret weapons securely in her Versace dress—is a super feat in its own right.

Photo: Lionel Hahn/

Stars on Strike: Hollywood Boycotts the Golden Globes
The fate of last January’s canceled Golden Globes generated more buzz for the usually snoozy awards show than anything in its 65-year history (remember when Isaac Mizrahi grabbed Scarlett Johansson’s boob? Yeah, we didn’t think so). A few weeks later, fueled by evil threats that the writers’ strike might shut down—gasp!—the Academy Awards, stars turned up in well-heeled droves for the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA awards. Luckily the Oscars were held as planned, although with a more subdued tone than usual. Consider it preparation for the 2009 edition of the show. If the scaled-down plans for Vanity Fair’s annual blowout are any indication—it will be “a much more intimate affair than in years past,” according to editor in chief Graydon Carter—the Academy could be engaging in some proverbial belt tightening.

Photo: Tarik Briziz/ Courtesy of Regine Paris

What’s Old Is New Again: The Fashion Flock Rediscovers Regine’s
The hot spot for Eurosocials, designers, and mannequins during Paris fashion week this October was Regine’s, thanks in part to its glam seventies vibe—careful on that mirrored staircase!—but mostly to its new manager André, as in the Beatrice Inn and Le Baron’s André. Replacing the likes of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin on the dance floor was an Olsen twin, Eugenie Niarchos, Kate Bosworth, Miuccia Prada, and Riccardo Tisci, who hosted his glam-packed Givenchy after-party there. “I’m having fun now,” the designer told from the Champagne-laden table he shared with Natalia Vodianova and Mariacarla Boscono. A shared sentiment, bien sur.

Photo: Olivier Borde

Amy’s Last Dance: Winehouse Wows at Fendi
Lagerfeld loves her, Kors loves her, even Kawakubo loves her. It seemed you couldn’t find your seat at the Fall shows without bumping into an Amy Winehouse reference. Never one to miss a moment, Herr Karl secured the chanteuse for the Fendi store reopening during Paris fashion week, and made sure Sofia Coppola and Rihanna were in the audience. “She is really, really impressive,” Mary-Kate Olsen gushed after Winehouse’s performance. “And she looks good, too.” Alas, the days as fashion muse for she-of-the-beehive are most likely numbered, given that her most recent breakdown ranks right up there with Britney’s best. Karl, at least, can take comfort in knowing that he saw Winehouse in her prime.

Photo: Arthur Elgort

Wedding of the Year: Lauren Davis and Andres Santo Domingo’s Colombian Nuptials
It was a fairy-tale wedding, and since when do fairy tales have air-conditioning? While some haters (likely those without invites) scoffed at the tropical heat at Lauren Davis and Andres Santo Domingo’s three-day ceremony, the celebration in Cartagena was, by all accounts, an affair to remember. Partly to thank for the nuptial coup is Olivier Theyskens, who helped the bride through not one, not two, but three handcrafted costume changes as the night progressed. According to William Norwich (who, along with photographer Arthur Elgort, captured the festivities for Vogue), Davis’ wedding dress was created from 60 meters of heavily embellished silk jacquard. Now if the bride didn’t complain about the heat, no one can.

Photo: Joe Schildhorn/PatrickMcMullan

Three for the Price of One: Marc, Murakami, and Kanye at the Brooklyn Museum
In the fashion world, most parties come with a retail opportunity—store openings, book signings—but few come with street vendors. Leave it to Marc Jacobs to bring Canal Street to the Brooklyn Museum—a rarefied Canal Street, of course, with genuine Louis Vuitton bags for sale outside the © Murakami opening. The anti-counterfeit installation was one of two art-and-commerce mash-ups, the second being a fully operational LV pop-up shop among the Murakami prints inside. Après dinner, guests who didn’t bring their wallets scooped up their Murakami placemats before Kanye West capped off the evening with a sweaty performance.

Photo: Matteo Volta / Imaxtree

The Italian Job: Adam Kimmel’s $300,000 Fashion Show/Dinner Party/Dance-Off

Just add artists. That was Adam Kimmel’s formula when presented with a $300,000 check to subsidize his Fall 2008 presentation at Pitti Uomo. The menswear designer flew a whole mess of his art-world friends (Alitalia business class, naturally) to Florence to make merry with him. The crew—Aaron Young, Dan Colen, and Ryan McGinley, among others—wasn’t just there for gnocchi and support. For work, they modeled Kimmel’s gear for a lookbook shot by Alexei Hay (Kimmel’s brother); and for play, they dined at the Istituto d’Arte, where Hay’s images were projected on either side of a replica of the David (the original had a prior engagement). Throw in a performance by Gang Gang Dance, and we’d say Kimmel did well with his 300 Gs. As artist and Mary-Kate Olsen boy toy Nate Lowman said, “The guy delivered on every score.”


The Star We Saw the Most Of: Gwyneth Paltrow

Mother of two Gwyneth Paltrow took her return to the big screen in Iron Man this summer seriously. Her turn as spunky secretary Pepper Potts saved the flick from snoozeville (maybe that’s just us), but it was the actress’ commitment to her opening-night duties that’s really worth a mention. From the premiere in Rome to the Cinema Society-hosted screening in New York, Paltrow appeared in a series of disappearing dresses and vertiginous heels on many a red carpet. The lace Balmain V.L.B.D. (Very Little Black Dress) and six-inch Alexander McQueen stilettos she paired together in London were really just accessories for her legs. Want the look? There’s always, Gwynnie’s curious little self-improvement site, to help you get it.

Photo: SJP:Gregorio Binuya/ABACAUSA.COM; Sherly Rabbani and Josephine Solimene; Mary Hilliard; WENN

The Best Dress Scandal: Nina Ricci and Sex and the City

The fever had been mounting for weeks, months, years, even, and when Sex and the City: The Movie finally touched down in its hometown on a rainy Tuesday night, there were crowds of shrieking females to welcome it. Perhaps all the advance hoopla is to blame for Sarah Jessica Parker’s small snafu on the red carpet. Namely, the Nina Ricci gown she chose for her big New York minute had already been worn. Twice. Olivier Theyskens’ main squeeze Lauren Santo Domingo wore it to the Costume Institute Ball, and Lindsay Lohan slipped into it for a photo shoot. “Look, my affection for the dress hasn’t changed,” Parker told Us Weekly after the premiere. “But what they did was so shortsighted. It’s just unethical and disappointing.” Kind of like when Carrie cheated on Aidan with Big when he was married to Natasha, right?

Photo: Billy Farrell/

This Year’s Top Import/Exporter: Dasha Zhukova

If the party schedules of America’s art elite are any indication of international affairs, relations between Russia and the U.S. have never been friendlier. The charms of a relative newcomer on the jet-set scene, beautiful and brainy Dasha Zhukova, are such that Jeff Koons, Larry Gagosian, and Vito Schnabel thought nothing of descending on Moscow in September to celebrate her taste in art. With help from billionaire boyfriend Roman Abramovich, Zhukova has transformed her new nonprofit gallery, the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, into an international hot spot. Celebrations with czar-size portions of Champagne and caviar have their own undeniable appeal, but, as Natalia Vodianova put it, “I am here only for Dasha, whom I love.”

Photo: Venturelli/WireImage; SGP Italia

The Showdown: Tom Ford and Gucci Host Rival Fêtes

Here’s a conundrum. If presented with invitations to the opening of former Gucci designer Tom Ford’s menswear megastore and to a garden party hosted by current Gucci designer Frida Giannini (attended by—swoon!—James Franco) on the same night, which do you choose? Well, if you’re correspondent Tim Blanks, you hit up both. Other partygoers had to make a symbolic choice that June night in Milan, though, and with guests like Donatella, Miuccia, Domenico, and Stefano on hand, it seems Ford’s party was the front-runner. But did we mention James Franco was at the Gucci party? Let’s just call it a tie.

Photo: Adriel Reboh/

Summer’s Best Beach Party: Steven Klein’s Bridgehampton Bash

Leave it to photographer Steven Klein to add a little edge to the Hamptons summer scene. A horse buff (remember the W portfolio in which a bridled Madonna stares longingly at a thoroughbred?), he hosted the Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue Benefit at his Bridgehampton estate in August, and it was no ordinary pool party. The dress code was black and the dance floor was down a long torch-lit path in the middle of a dark cornfield. The only thing missing was Madonna herself, who was the evening’s honorary chair. Gwyneth Paltrow took her stead, but there was no dancing with the farmhands for her. Klein and the actress holed up in the stables, presumably plotting his next salacious photo spread.

Photo: Hanuk Hanuk

Fashion’s Favorite Holiday: Halloween, Again

Last year we reported on the fashion flock’s propensity and talent for dressing in costume (shocking, really) come Halloween, and given the efforts on display this year—Heidi Klum’s multi-armed deity comes to mind—it’s safe to say no one’s soured on the holiday since then. Allison Sarofim’s annual masquerade had an anime theme, generating a plethora of unusual costumes. Take Douglas Friedman’s California Roll, for example: “I had to come here on my knees in the back of an SUV,” he said. “But what would Halloween be without a little bit of humiliation?” What indeed?

Photo: Astrid Munoz

Where the Bikini Is Always in Season: Welcome to Rio

Where there’s a city, there’s a fashion week—in fact, a press release for Aspen fashion week landed in our inbox just a few days ago. But that doesn’t mean you’re expected or would even want to go to all of them. And yet Claro Rio Summer, a week on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana dedicated to bikinis and resortwear, has something of a siren song about it. By the looks of the crowd it attracted for its inaugural festivities—Francisco Costa, Justin Portman, Astrid Muñoz—this could become a new fall ritual for the fabulous and mobile. Who says no to a chance to tan in November?

Photo: Joe Schildhorn/PatrickMcMullan

Living the High Line: Calvin Klein’s Birthday Bash Raises the Bar

In true milestone birthday fashion, Calvin Klein Inc. celebrated its 40th this September with a 600-person blowout. The label’s famous fans and faces were out in force—Eva Mendes, Naomi Watts, Claire Danes, and Brooke Shields—but universal opinion held that the High Line setting was the evening’s real stunner. Perched high above the West Side on the elevated rail structure that will soon become a public park, guests took in sweeping views of the Hudson and New Jersey beyond. “This is an incredible New York moment,” Rosario Dawson summed up reverently. The fashion week fête may have been an end of an era, actually, what with budget crunches and cutbacks slimming down party plans all around. We’re not saying parties in 2009 will go the way of the mix tape, but for the time being those High Line highs may be a little harder to come by.

Photo: Sherly Rabbani and Josephine Solimene

Our Favorite Award Winner: Candy Pratts Price

This year’s CFDA Awards had a little more zip and zing than in years past (and an up-tempo organizers would do well to permanently adopt), but the most memorable part of the evening, for fans, at least, was Candy Pratts Price’s acceptance of the Eugenia Sheppard Award, presented by Anna Wintour. As’s executive fashion director, Pratts Price goes above and beyond the call of fashion duty, in avatar and human form. And yes, she is the office’s best dressed.