New York Fashion Week parties generally include a few reliable elements: clandestine downtown locations; crowds packed tightly enough to make you reconsider your next meal and a general inability to find a cab anywhere in sight at the night’s end.
W Magazine's Stefano Tonchi took a different approach Monday night when he hosted a civilized, but no less entertaining affair, with help from sponsor Blackglama, to preview Steven Klein’s video installation “Time Capsule,” a 3-D extension of the editorial “One for the Ages,” which the photographer shot with Amber Valletta for the September issue.
Instead of a claustrophobic bunker, guests were ushered into the Park Avenue Armory—more often home to Winter Antiques shows than fashion bashes—where they were confronted with an eerie quiet, until men parted the thick black curtains encasing the installation. As one woman put it, “I felt like a kid walking into a haunted house.”
Well, a house haunted by ten videos of Valletta, on huge flat screen televisions circling high above a central black bar and emitting an otherworldly glow as a score like techno music on quaaludes played in the background. “One for the Ages” showed Valletta as a woman progressively growing a century older, with help from some serious prosthetics and glamorous clothes, thus each screen was dedicated to one of her many decades.
Valletta herself looking appropriately timeless in Azzedine Alaia couture and a slick bun, professed a healthy attitude towards the aging process.
“My grandmothers both of them are stunning. And my one grandmother has fallen in love at like 80 something with a 90 year old in her rest home in her assisted living,” said the model, though no amount of experience and grace had quite prepared her for the surrounding installation. “I’m pretty overwhelmed but I feel really good. I meditated before I came.”
Her partner in creative crime insisted that his work was not a manifesto against the rampant plastic surgery that plagues many a member of his industry.
“This is about a specific woman I created so she actually does age. It’s not a statement as to whether it’s correct to do things against aging or for aging but I think it also comes within each person what everybody feels comfortable with,” said Klein, who said of all the years to depict (including a 120 year-old Valletta in an S & M-esque corset) the earlier ones proved most challenging. “They started to feel more like fashion and the more prosthetics and the more we developed the aging the more it became interesting to me, so if that’s any indication about being older, it gets more interesting, more exciting.”
There was plenty of excitement to be had beyond the transfixing images. Daphne Guinness caused a stir, per usual, arriving in heel-free silver sequin shoes that had guests crouching down to catch a glimpse, and it was model central in some corners, with the likes of Shalom Harlow, Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova and Crystal Renn laughing with friends. Rose McGowan navigated the room in a golden lame dress and Natalie Joos showed up with a gold purse-shaped balloon as her accessory.
Midway through the evening, an entourage of five appeared causing whispers of “Gaga” thanks to their outlandish ensembles that included a plume bedecked black parasol, a topless man with a Suzy Menkes-worthy hair roll and black rhinestones glued to his forehead and a woman sporting a large black wig and lace bodysuit revealing her black thong. Gaga, indeed.
Turns out they were the Zand Collective, a performance art group supported by Susanne Bartsch. Why the kooky getup?
“That’s how we roll,” replied their topless leader.
And what did they make of the films?
“Well, we’re biased because they’re in black and white,” he replied, referring to the group’s preference for color-free dress.
Just before midnight, Courtney Love made an appearance to a round of flashbulbs and hugs from Klein. Turns out the singer had been delayed because she had lost track of time while watching Julie Christie in Darling. But she quickly jumped into the thick of things, offering her thoughts on the art piece at hand.
“I saw like a cheesy movie the other day—Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Something’s Gotta Give—and he only dates younger women and she’s post menopausal. It’s cute, for like sick stomach, bored shitless of fashion week, just want to stay at my house, like, I’m changing the channel, and I ended up really liking it. Not that the film addressed the aging process on this level, but it did in a funny way,” she said nodding towards the screens before continuing, “You don’t know my taste, but for me to even watch that movie I was like this is charming, this is good, this is sending good messages, this is a good movie I think. It gave me the little kick that I needed. I wish some men I know would watch that damn film. Or get a heart attack. Some in this room.”
Photos: Billy Farrell Agency