Not to be presumptuous, but business suits and risqué black leather are not what I consider visual bedfellows, except perhaps at a Helmut Newton photo shoot. But I suppose such juxtapositions were only natural when Bank of America presented the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Fashion Forward event Thursday night.
The invitation called for “cocktail attire,” a dress code I realized was to be very loosely interpreted after I entered the terminal-sized Metropolitan Pavilion for a cocktail reception and silent auction (to be followed later by a live auction and runway show). There were men in pinstripes sipping pink drinks, a guy with a leather harness thrown over his black muscle t-shirt as casually as a scarf, and another fellow in a midi length kilt-cum-skirt sporting black patent leather cat ears. There were girls in strapless mini dresses and strappy platform shoes—no one paid them much attention.
After all, there was a luxury silent auction to peruse, rife with items courtesy of everyone from Jonathan Adler to Tom Ford. Two brands, Buckler and T. Christopher, upped the ante on their presentation by going with live male models, a tableau vivant, of sorts, designed to show off the goods. At Buckler, I casually asked if the guy came with the look.
“An extra $50,” said their handler, nodding his head toward a blonde model and adding, “But that one’s an extra $100. He’s very popular.”
T. Christopher put their boys at a slightly higher price point (perhaps because they were forced to stand there for two hours in board shorts and swim trunks).
“Starts at $1500,” their maestro told me. “But tell me which one you like and I’ll bring him over. So you can have a touch and feel.”
Say what? No, I’m good. I was joking. Really.
“Of the fabrics,” he demurred with a wink. “Very important to touch the fabrics before you buy,” he continued as he ushered over one bare-chested model while motioning towards his waistband.
Time to hit the bar. Which apparently was the thought on many attendees’ minds, as the crowd was five people deep.
“You know what the real crisis is?” asked one guest of his date, rhetorically, while eyeing the wait impatiently.
“Does this look okay?” said another petite fellow to his friend after slipping his phone into his back pocket. A quick booty viewing was a negative—his friend grabbed the phone, slipping it into his jacket pocket.
Properly hydrated, it was time for the live auction and fashion show, emceed by Brad Goreski and Tracee Ellis Ross, also the evening’s hosts. “We represent two of the populations that continue to be hit the hardest in this epidemic,” said Ross.
“Which are you?” asked Goreski.
“I’m the gay man,” she replied. “And you’re the African American woman.” Then she took a stroll down the runway in mock model mode, to cries of “Work it Tracee” and “Work it girl.”
“I was doing my Shalom Harlow,” she said.
Then it was onto the inaugural Style Vault Award, whose recipient was a red Tom Ford dress-clad Julie Macklowe.
“A style woman. A woman who can handle her Scotch,” said Cameron Silver, introducing her and saying of her new skincare line. “I’m 84 years old and I want to tell you that vbeaute really works. The shit is good.” (10% of all vbeaute sales for the next week go to GMHC.)
“For all of you out there, I’m age 97 so listen to me,” Macklowe said to the excitable crowd, which refused to quiet down. “I’m not going to take my shirt off, either.”
The live auction proved a bit of a comical challenge for the two hosts, at least on the math front. First of the three travel lots was a 6-night stay in Paris (“I’ll sit in your lap if you bid $6,000,” said Goreski). Ross seemed to be having some difficulty keeping up with the bidding increments. Next up was a sojourn in Brazil, for which Ross clarified, “I don’t do the math, I went to Brown.” And then Sweden.
A fashion show of clothes from Chris Benz, Thome Browne, Marlon Gobel, Sally LaPointe, Zang Toi, Timo Weiland, VPL, and archival pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier rounded out the evening. Soon the five-deep scene was at the coat check. One place that was blissfully easy to get into, relatively speaking? The ladies room. One girl was overheard saying, “This is the first time in history that the women’s line is shorter than the men’s.”
Photos: Billy Farrell Agency