Moscow in frigid midwinter is hardly the party destination of choice for the fashion and Hollywood flock. But on Thursday, Valentino, Diane von Furstenberg, Lucy Liu, Mario Testino, Eva Herzigova, Natalie Imbruglia and others gathered in an ice palace on the snowy grounds of an estate built by Catherine the Great for the Love Ball, a benefit for Russian model Natalia Vodianova's charity.
Guests at the Valentine's Day party arrived by train to a reception in a regal gold-columned hall. Russians predominated, including billionaire oligarchs; the "Russian Paris Hilton" socialite Ksenia Sobchak, and President Vladimir Putin's spokesman. One advantage of Vodianova choosing her home country soon became clear: Foreign guests were staggered at the amount of money Russia's extravagant rich dropped at the auction.
The wife of a mayor of a small Russian town paid $660,000 to appear in a British Vogue photo shoot with Vodianova and Herzigova; the last look from Valentino's final couture show sold for $880,000; Rustam Tarikov, the head of a vodka firm, forked over $470,000 to choose the name of a newly discovered orchid. In total, the event raised over $5 million for the charity, which builds playgrounds in Russian cities. And Vodianova, who hosted a dinner the night before sponsored by Imperia Vodka, wasn't above stirring rumors in order to get the bidding up. Early in the evening she dismissed speculation she was retiring as a model by saying, "I'm not leaving the catwalk. I'm friends with a lot of designers, and I can't turn them down. But I'll never do a whole catwalk season again." Across a continent and an ocean the night before, a party to mark the (Auction) RED, which took place at Sotheby's the next evening, drew an eclectic group of designers (Phillip Lim, Narciso Rodriguez, Francisco Costa, Patrick Robinson, Donna Karan, and Derek Lam), rock stars (Jon Bon Jovi, Patti Smith), big-time businessmen (Rupert Murdoch, Tom Freston, Barry Diller) and royalty (Queen Noor).
Yet with all those egos in one room, humility abounded. Lim was nervous to meet Bono (who cohosted with Anna Wintour). "I'm working up my courage to talk to him with this drink," the designer said. Chuck Close, whose work was on display at the fete, was similarly in awe of the Irish rock star. "I'm a huge fan," the artist said. And, it seems, the feeling was mutual. "He scratches my back, I scratch his," the crooner said of Close.
With all that fawning, guests had little energy left to consider their bids for the art on display. "All of the stuff in here shines until you see the price tag and you're like 'Ah!'" Bon Jovi said.