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NEW YORK — Oscar de la Renta was honored Wednesday with the Couture Council’s Award for Artistry at a luncheon that drew 1,000 guests, including longtime customers and members of the younger generation.
The event, held at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, raised more than $1 million for The Museum at FIT. Donna Karan, who was sitting at de la Renta’s table, was pleased because “I signed off on DKNY last night,” she said. “I like it. The Collection, we’ll discuss at a later date. I have Urban Zen and there’s Stephan’s book launch [today at Donna Karan New York on Madison Avenue],” she said, referring to her book about her late husband, “Stephan Weiss: Connecting the Dots.” Karan said de la Renta had a profound effect on her career. “He was my first mentor,” she said.
Liz Peek, chairwoman of the council’s board of directors, poked fun at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, painting him as sartorially challenged. “He only has two pairs of shoes, one black and one brown and he alternates between them,” she said, adding that all his suits are olive, so you don’t know if he has one suit or many.
Bloomberg, who presented the award to de la Renta, said, “Oscar has always been vocal about making sure others have the opportunities he had. He founded schools and a home for orphans in [his native] Dominican Republic. I’m proud to call him a friend, and that’s the reason Diana [Taylor, Bloomberg’s companion] is wearing Oscar today.”
“I’m an unbelievably lucky man,” de la Renta said when he took the podium. “I love what I do.” But he also took aim at celebrities who blithely launch collections with no fashion training. “Today, if you play tennis, you can be a really good designer,” de la Renta said. “Or, if you’re an actress, you can be a designer. I’ve been at it for 45 years and I’m still learning my craft on a daily basis.”
De la Renta managed to pull in a slew of his peers, including Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Josie Natori and Isabel and Ruben Toledo. The designer filled his table with women who reflected the cross-generational appeal of his clothes. Besides Nancy Kissinger and Barbara Bush, the granddaughter of the former first lady, there was Sarah Jessica Parker at the table, and Eliza Bolen, executive vice president of Oscar de la Renta, and his wife, Annette’s, daughter. Bush, who wore artfully bejeweled baby blue, said, “I’m going back to the office in this. Just another Wednesday at work.”
Political affiliations aside, Karan and Bush hit it off. Explaining that her connection to Oscar goes way back, Karan launched into stories of the infamous 1973 benefit dubbed by WWD as the “Battle of Versailles,” which she attended with her boss Anne Klein.
Bush was intrigued. By the end of the event, the two were arranging a lunch date.
Simon Doonan presided over an auction that included a stay at de la Renta’s estate in the Dominican Republic. Two seats to the designer’s fashion show were snapped up by von Furstenberg for $12,000. It was suggested lunch with Doonan go under the gavel and bids were solicited. “You can order what ever you want,” said a council rep. “A drink is included. Dessert! He’s going to sleep with you as well.” The package went for $3,000.