Party Loyalty

Recession or no, the social set is out on the town —even if they’re swapping caviar for pigs in a blanket.

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WWD Scoop issue 11/24/2008
• In September, Jamee Gregory arrives at the New Yorkers for Children gala, traditionally the first big black-tie event of the fall social season, full of energy and optimism in spite of the doomsday headlines. “It’s like back to school,” she says. The social is joined by her peers and actresses such as Blake Lively and Julianne Moore, who don their best Oscar de la Renta and Burberry and settle into Cipriani 42nd Street. Jimmy Fallon warms up the crowd with a comedy routine, and when rapper Lupe Fiasco takes the mike, socials like Amanda Brooks start grooving in their seats with glow sticks. By the time Patti LaBelle performs, the crowd can’t contain its excitement and some women even get on stage with the diva and wiggle to the beat.

But not everyone is feeling so carefree, a portent of what is to come. The finance types belly up to the bar. “I give a lot of money to charity,” says one, “and yesterday I gave to a charity called Lehman Brothers.”

• Laura Vinroot Poole, owner of the luxury boutique Capitol in Charlotte, N.C., celebrates its 10th anniversary in October with a weekend-long extravaganza and calls it her “job” to have a party. “You can’t get away from it—the economy, the economy—these times,” she says. “It’s just, like, enough. The whole point of my business is being a respite or some sort of refuge for my clients.”

About 40 fashion followers, including Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte and Chris Benz, join Vinroot Poole in Charlotte for a dinner where tens of wguest is carefully tended to by a personal waiter. “I don’t think it was too over the top,” Vinroot Poole says. Dancing carries on until 4 a.m., and those who can drag themselves out of bed the next day hop on a chartered bus to take them around Charlotte to antique shows and local diners. Champagne is served on board.

• The opening of Juicy Couture’s Fifth Avenue flagship in New York one week later is similarly unabashed. “We planned the party way before anything happened [with the economy],” says Gela Nash-Taylor, who, with her partner, Pamela Skaist-Levy, arrives at the circuslike bash in a custom black ballgown and top hat. “We did, of course, take into consideration what was going on in the world, but we felt that at this particular time everybody was ready for a party, to go out, to turn off the news, to stop hearing about it for one night.”

The duo pack their two-story, 12,000-square-foot store with helium balloons, dancers from Alvin Ailey and American Ballet Theatre, stiltwalkers, the Boys Choir of Harlem, teen queens such as Lively and mounds of pastel macaroons and cupcakes. Skaist-Levy insists that, “for us, it was not a ‘Let them eat cake’ Marie Antoinette moment. It looks like we went crazy, but we didn’t. We’re very mindful of spending.”

(The only intention on which the duo reneged was their plan to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange the morning of the party. “We were, like, mmm, no, not a good idea,” says Nash-Taylor. No kidding. The Dow fell 443 points that day.)

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