Jeffrey Kalinsky's favorite part of his annual fashion-themed fundraising event? "When it's over," he deadpanned.
The retailer's Jeffrey Fashion Cares event is now in its 14th year, and, along with a sister event in Atlanta, raises well over a million dollars each year for charities.
"I only mean that I hold my breath, hoping that everything goes well, and that when it's over I know I can relax and kind of enjoy myself," he quickly added, lest you think he's over his own event.
"There is a big part of me that is tired and sometimes thinks about life without this, I feel like I can't do that," he mused. "This is too important. The moneys too important. I'm just going to keep going."
Clearly, the assembled crowd that comes back year after year hopes so. Actor Giles Marini, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, designers Brandon Maxwell and Joseph Altuzarra, and model couple Samantha Gradoville and Sean O'Pry were just a few of the guests who had boarded the retired aircraft carrier that constitutes the The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for last Monday's event.
The night is a mix of cocktails, both a silent and live auction and a men's fashion show showcasing looks from labels like Gucci. Though, the real hook for much of the crowd seems to be the beefcake beneath the clothes. One of the hottest items during the live auction was a chance to spend the day on set during a photo shoot with a muscly male model named Diego. Bidding only increased once the hunk took his shirt off at the urging of the crowd.
While the fashion is a mix of casual wear, the few models who strutted down the runway in swimwear, including Chad White, elicited generous "woos" from the crowd. This year's co-host Brad Goreski informed the crowd that he was so frazzled by White backstage he felt like he was a nervous high schooler all over again. "I don't think I made sense of anything I said," he quipped.
"You know what my biggest take away was though, obviously besides the charity and all the money that it's raised," designer Brandon Maxwell said after the runway show. "But then I thought today, I ordered macaroni and cheese, a steak salad, and blue cheese chips for lunch because I thought 'Why not? It's Monday. Live your life.'"
"I keep saying every year I'm going to be beach body ready, and it's just not going to happen," he added. "but I'm engaged, so whatever."
Of course, the event served as more than just a reality check for any member's of the audience slagging Fire Island beach body diet plans. There was also the reality of the present political situation and news that President Donald Trump plans to cut funding for HIV research.
Kiehl’s president Chris Salgardo, who was being honored for his work with the LGBTQ community, called Trump's cabinet an "anti-gay box of chocolate," and related that while he grew up with a supporting family, not all members of the LGBTQ community are so local. Indeed, the night's funds benefited Elton John Aids Foundation, Hetrick Martin Institute, and Lambda Legal, which all do work on behalf of the community.
"There was a lot of hope and certainly I thought we were getting there with human rights and then we got sucker punched," Kalinsky had said earlier. "If a good thing to comes out of this hopefully it's that it's a reminder to stay vigilant."
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