Passersby near Lincoln Center Thursday night were brought to a grinding halt by the red carpet snaking across the main plaza, the likes of which one normally associates with Golden Globes-type awards ceremonies. In some ways, this wasn’t too far off a description of the occasion prompting such pomp and circumstance: the New York City Ballet Fall Gala, which this year chose to celebrate Valentino Garavani. And where Mr. Garavani goes, a coterie of A-list celebrities and red dress-bedecked international bold-facers eagerly follow. (Even the men showed some respect. “Nice jacket,” Peter Brant remarked to David Koch as he passed him, Stephanie Seymour on his arm. Mr. Koch had gone with a burgundy velvet blazer, offsetting his wife, Julia’s crimson gown.) Sarah Jessica Parker, one of the evening’s gala chairmen, entered on the designer’s arm. Karolina Kurkova swirled around in a red caped gown as if in a photo shoot. And Anjelica Huston strode with all the majesty of Hollywood royalty. And that was before anyone even entered the David H. Koch Theater.
The honor bestowed on Valentino wasn’t simply lip service. The famed couturier had designed costumes for four of the program’s five pieces, including “Bitter Earth” an excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon’s “Five Movements, Three Repeats” and the world premiere of Peter Martins’ “Bal de Couture” which had principal dancers like Maria Kowroski, Sterling Hyltin and Tiler Peck in such decadently and gorgeously layered ensembles, they could easily have walked off the stage and onto a Parisian runway.
A behind-the-scenes video of the Valentino-NYCB collaboration gave a humorous insight into the process.
“But who is going to wear this dress?” inquired Martins at one point when Valentino insisted on a particular confection.
“We’ll find some girl,” the designer responded, with a wave of his hand, to much laughter. Later, he asked of Martins, “Can we have a naked bosom?” Martins’ gaping look said it all.
As guests headed to dinner on the promenade after, crisscrossed with red ribbons like some divine Christmas present, Valentino didn’t seem to have missed the opportunity for said naked bosoms.
“No, no!” he laughed. “I was very full of emotion, but at the end they paid me back. Because people were fantastic and I realized then, they loved my clothes.”
Anne Hathaway, who it was revealed last night will be wearing a dress of Valentino’s custom design for her upcoming nuptials, certainly agreed.
“It’s so exciting to see his imagination on display again. I didn’t realize how hungry I was for it,” she said, a crush of cameras surrounding her. And despite evidence to the contrary, she offered she still feels at odds in such black tie grandiosity. “I always feel so honored to be included at these things and not be waiting tables at them.”
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Photo: Sherly Rabbani & Josephine Solimene