22nd Annual Night of Stars

It was heaven on Earth at Cipriani's 42nd Street last week, as The Fashion Group International held its celestial 22nd Annual Night of Stars Gala. The October 27th fundraiser titled 'The Romantics' was a black-tie dinner and awards ceremony, saluting a veritable constellation of honorees from the worlds of fashion, beauty, film, architecture, business, and publishing. The evening began with an intimate cocktail party and VIP suite overlooking the dining room. FGI President, Margaret Hayes looking very romantic in red welcomed the attendees, thanked the sponsors, and paid tribute to the organization's founding members Elizabeth Arden, Edith Head, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helena Rubenstein, and Carmel Snow 'who had the foresight and who believed that the business of fashion needed a forum and a catalyst to ensure that women would have an ever expanding role in the developing U.S. fashion industry.' She also gave special thanks to Ruben Toledo who illustrated the event's invitation (see summary photo) and program. The gala captured the idealism of its nine awardees perfectly with a blend of grace, humor, and sentiment. Valentino Garavini, Alberta Ferretti, Ralph Rucci, Oliver Theyskens, Pat McGrath, William McDonough, Donald Trump, Sandra Bullock, and Prosper Assouline were this year's award recipients.

FGI President Margaret Hayes

Star Honoree Ralph Rucci











With a background of warm ambient tones and textures, a sea of wait staff came pouring out in white jackets to serve the 500± industry luminaries seated at the round tables amongst the former teller windows of the old converted Bowery Savings Bank. Soft candlelight flooded the halls with an incandescent glow as the sweet floral arrangements underscored the evening's dreamy theme. Host Simon Doonan was a sheer delight with a brilliantly witty welcome and salute to all of the evening's awardees. In his signature banter, Mr. Doonan joked that all the honorees were former lovers and made special mention of how Mr. Garavini had 'taught him how to apply perfume.' In one of the evening's highlights, the Barneys Creative Director recounted how atop Rome's famed Spanish Steps, 'Valentino sprayed a cloud of perfume that we walked into together.' He later introduced International Fashion Syndicate's Marylou Luther, who welcomed the evening's first presenter, Neiman Marcus Fashion Director, Joan Kaner to the stage. She presented Ms. Kaner, who had announced her retirement from her 16-year post only the week before with a surprise award. Ms. Luther noted the fashion director's 'inestimable effects on the industry.' The eloquent Ms. Kaner commented on what an emotional week it had been and thanked everyone for the 'lovely ride.'

As Joan Kaner delivered her presentation of the Star Award to Ralph Rucci, she made reference to the definition of 'romantic' and how well it applied to the Philadelphia native's design aesthetic. In 2002, he was the first American-born designer to show his Haute Couture collection in Paris since Main Rousseau Bocher. It was only fitting that Ms. Kaner, a longtime supporter and dear friend, should present his award. As Mr. Rucci accepted the glass statue, he said that it was 'awesome, lovely' and thanked FGI for the honor. The designer, who has been in business for 23 years, delivered a very dignified and sincere acceptance speech, saying that 'the only way to evolve is through a sense of humility.'

Star Honoree Alberta Ferretti

Oracle Awardee Prosper Assouline











Patricia Clarkson took the podium to present Alberta Ferretti's award. She told the crowd that she 'had been fortunate enough to wear a lot of Alberta Ferretti' and that 'if there had been a fire in her apartment she would save her dog and as much as she could carry from her Alberta Ferretti collection.' She described the designer, who has been in business for more than a quarter of a century, as 'beautiful, romantic, and unique.' And then in one of the evening's more poignant moments, the actress said 'I don't understand Italian, but I understand you perfectly. Inside and out, you are belissima.' Ms. Ferretti graciously accepted the Star Award, as she apologized to the crowd for her imperfect English, but like Ms. Clarkson, all we could see was the poise, modesty, and integrity of the celebrated designer.

Saks Fifth Avenue President, Andrew Jennings followed to present Prosper Assouline with the Fashion Oracle Award. Assouline which has published a combined 750 works here and abroad, currently houses outposts within numerous department stores across North America, including eleven in Saks Fifth Avenue locations. Mr. Assouline, who founded the Paris-based publishing house in 1995 with his wife Martine, thanked Saks Fifth Avenue, Fashion Group International, and industry stars for their continued support.

Star Honoree Olivier Theyskens and Presenter Bee Shaffer

Bee Shaffer, undoubtedly the belle of the ball, was an elegant vision as she took the stage in a beautiful black strapless gown, designed by Olivier Theyskens for Rochas. Ms. Shaffer recounted a personal anecdote of the CFDA Awards she had attended only two years earlier, when she was caught in the storms which had hit New York and soiled her lovely pink dress, also one of the honoree's creations. And while she was beside herself at the thought of her gown in ruins, Mr. Theyskens took her to a nearby water fountain where he slowly and patiently tended to it until it was restored. As the Belgium designer accepted his award, he noted the 'fantastic support he's received in this country.' He thanked Rochas for the 'great opportunity,' and said that 'the House represents beauty, timeless refinement.'

The next presenter was Diana Revson, who was on hand to award the Architecture prize to William McDonough, said she was feeling 'a bit inadequate not to have a sexy accent.' She noted how Time Magazine had named the world-renowned architect 'Hero for the Planet' in 1999. No stranger to accolades, Mr. McDonough has received three presidential awards and is also known for designing the first solar-heated house in Ireland in 1977. Mrs. Revson called the famed designer a 'superhero' citing his 1985 U.S. Green Project, the first 'green office' in the U.S. for the Environmental Defense Fund. She introduced Mr. McDonough as 'not just an architect, but a revolutionary.'

Presenter Diana Revson and Architecture Honoree William McDonough

Vogue Editor at Large, Andre Leon Talley looking quite dapper, presented his friend Pat McGrath with the evening's Star Beauty Award. He described with great love and admiration a career which has spanned nearly two decades. He regaled the audience with a story of how Ms. McGrath's 80-piece luggage rivaled that of Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Sharon Stone. Her illustrious career which began with freelance photo shoots, has taken her from groundbreaking advertising campaigns with Valentino, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, signature runway looks for Gucci, Christian Dior, and Versace, to her current appointment as Global Cosmetics Creative Design Director of Proctor & Gamble. Ms. McGrath thanked Mr. Talley for his 'kind words' and teared up as she congratulated 'all the honorees for their genius.'

Karen Elson, Beauty Honoree Pat McGrath, and Missy Rayder

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump (stunning in Alberta Ferretti) presented the Visionary Business Leader Award to their father. Donald Trump Jr. went on to list the real estate magnate's additional successes: a #1 reality television show, fragrance launch, and clothing line. Mr. Trump charismatically joked with the crowd 'It's Thursday, you should all be at home watching The Apprentice.' The business mogul seemed to beam with pride as he accepted the award from his children and took a moment to thank his wife, Melania (wearing Valentino), who 'never looked lovelier.' The newlyweds are expecting their first child next spring.

Donald Trump Jr., Visionary Business Leader Donald Trump, and Ivanka Trump

Sri Lankan Ambassador, Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke delivered the evening's most benevolent presentation for the Humanitarian Award. 'A lot of people have a difficult time pronouncing my name. I don't blame them. Sometimes I do too,' quipped the dignitary. He retold how Sandra Bullock had come to the aid of countless victims in the face of horrific disasters, both natural and manmade, lending her financial support to the affected families of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the devastating Southeast Asia tsunami tragedies. Ms. Bullock made one million-dollar contributions to the Red Cross during the aftermath of each. Ambassador Goonetilleke thanked her 'most profusely for her example.' The award-winning actress who was beautiful in a Valentino lace gown said she found it 'oddly overwhelming.' She poked fun at herself, saying the fashion community could rest easy as she was not there to receive a fashion icon award. Ms. Bullock went on to give special thanks to 'the American Red Cross, homegrown organizations, FGI, and all the designers who will hopefully continue to design outfits that make her top half look bigger than her bottom half.'

Meryl Streep prepared what was the most poetic and delightful introduction of the evening with her salute to Valentino Garavini. The 13-time Oscar nominated actress, who wore an exquisite white evening suit by Valentino, layered her verses of homage to one of fashion's most important designers with puns of Jersey, both the state and the fabric. She rhymed her way through the beloved designer's much heralded 40-year career with her lyrical dedication to the Superstar Honoree. In 2000 the Council of Fashion Designers of America bestowed its greatest honor to Valentino, a Lifetime Achievement Award.  President Chirac presented Valentino with the French Legion Award in 2005. And on this evening, the great master brought a star-studded crowd to its feet as he was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation. 

Humanitarian Award Honoree Sandra Bullock

Superstar Awardee Valentino as Meryl Streep looks on












Fashion Group International celebrated its 75th Anniversary in fine form and delivered an evening of heavenly proportions against the backdrop of Cipriani's vaulted ceilings and colossal columns. The 5,000 member global non-profit organization saluted industry veterans and younger luminaries alike with lovely tributes and a few surprises as well. Bravo to FGI for assembling such a distinguished line up of presenters and organizing the successfully romantic evening! The perfectly themed gala captured the true spirit of humanity, idealism, and romanticism in all of its honorees. These nine visionaries have caused the galaxy to shine a little brighter, making a monumental difference with exquisite fashions, landmark architecture, historical literature, innovative business negotiations and altruistic measures. I raise my glass to them, one and all. Thank you to the Romantics who keep our world spinning with hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.

A special note of thanks to my makeup artist Michael of Chanel and Counter Manager Therese Henry at Barneys New York who made me look and feel as glamorous as the evening's honorees.

All photos provided by The Fashion Group International Computer Projections, Inc.

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