WASHINGTON — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior executives got the VIP treatment here this week with Francophiles in Congress and the White House throwing open some of the best doors in town to welcome them.
Mixing business with pleasure, Pamela Baxter, president of Christian Dior Inc., led the group Tuesday morning on a retail tour of the area. Beginning with a jaunt to Tysons Corner in Virginia, the group toured the handbag department at Saks Fifth Avenue and the shoe department at Neiman Marcus before heading back across the Potomac to meet the staff of the Dior boutique, which opened in 2006 in Chevy Chase, Md.
They all then zipped off to the French Embassy for a party that evening billed as a tribute to the French Caucus. The caucus, a loose confederation of 111 senators and congressmen (which works out to roughly one out of every five members of Congress), began in 2003 to stanch the anti-French sentiment then prevalent in Congress. To toast the caucus, LVMH served up its newest line of Veuve Clicquot Champagne while Dior displayed its 2010 cruisewear line on the embassy’s regal grand staircase.
The spirit inspired Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and cochairman of the French Caucus, to mystify many of the guests with a lengthy recital of Charles Baudelaire’s poem about the albatross. “I never know what Jim is saying,” drawled his cochair, Arkansas Rep. John Boozman, who offered his own crowd-pleasing reasons for loving France, “It’s a great deal. They have the most fabulous house in town, the food is great, they serve great drink and the room is filled with the prettiest women.”
“Washington is a great center for fashion — tonight,” whispered LVMH North America chairman Renaud Dutreil, a former French minister for small business and enterprise, unable to repress a sly reference to the city’s seemingly unshakable reputation for politically correct frumpiness. Dutreil, who comes to Washington once a month to lobby Congress on issues including intellectual property protection, was off to Baltimore on Wednesday morning. But he planned to return to Washington in time for an important lunch.
Tessa Gillenwater, Dior’s West Coast regional director, arranged the event, which was hosted by her friend Mona Sutphen, President Obama’s deputy chief of staff.
Sutphen welcomed Baxter, Dutreil, Gillenwater and Karen Watkins, Dior’s executive vice president for retail, into a small dining room in the West Wing. While the group did not get to meet the President or Sutphen’s boss, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, they felt the buzz.
As they toured the Green, Red and Blue Rooms after lunch, one floor down President Obama was in the Cabinet Room meeting 20 congressional leaders to defend his economic record. From there, the President was off to the Diplomatic Room to brief reporters before heading to the Executive Office Building to announce more funding for 85 community health clinics. He then returned to the White House to pack for his flight Wednesday night to Oslo with First Lady Michelle Obama to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
“It was a very busy day,” said Baxter, interviewed by telephone on the train back to New York, armed with a box of White House M&M’s and her own slice of history. “If you are lucky enough to get invited to the White House, I highly recommend going during the holidays. The decorations are breathtaking.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast