Rumor had it Marina Rust Connor was throwing an affair of her own at home, and a few art and fashion types were downtown at Donna Karan's studio for the annual AIDS Community Research Initiative of America dinner, sponsored by In Style. ("You know you've turned 60 when you start getting honored at these things," said Bob Colacello, who was feted for his work with the organization.) But this, coupled with the fact the dinner portion of the Neue gala was eliminated this year, meant that what once was one of the biggest to-dos of the fall season became a quick stop on the increasingly busy party circuit.
"We wanted to make it more like people could come by for a glass of wine and see the collection, like we used to do it years ago," explained co-chair Aerin Lauder. Her sister Jane, Lauren duPont, Amanda Brooks, Michael Kors, Hilary Rhoda, Kelly Klein, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Fabiola Beracasa came out for the affair— sponsored by Gucci for the third year in a row— to see the Klimts and mingle on the mirrored dance floor. No one seemed to miss the meal. Kors had eaten earlier at his company holiday party, but, as he said, "This is New York. I'll probably have a club sandwich later."
The previous night, Kors brought many of the same women downtown to celebrate his new SoHo outpost. Lauder, Marjorie Gubelmann, Gigi Mortimer and Renée Rockefeller dutifully made the trek, though some admitted they didn't often head so far south. "I get the bends if I go below 57th Street," Muffie Potter Aston joked. She, like many others, took the opportunity to do a little shopping.
Natasha Richardson admired the watches on display before trying on some sunglasses. The only thing she didn't need was jewelry: The actress was sporting a giant cocktail ring, albeit sans bodyguard. "It's trash flash," she said of her faux bauble. "I was Christmas shopping today at Henri Bendel and I got something for myself."
After a few cocktails, everyone walked over to SoHo standby Raoul's for steak frites and profiteroles. Brooke Shields and Jane Krakowski filled in the rest of the celeb quotient, flanking Kors at the eatery's central table. Meanwhile, old friend Gwyneth Paltrow (who met Kors in 1999 when he was still at Celine) made a grand entrance halfway through the meal.
"This is like Swifty's for downtown," said Kors. Clearly, the Upper East Side contingent agreed — they were cozy enough to stick around gossiping and doing shots long after the meal ended.