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Typically New York-based fashion designers retreat to the Hamptons after the hustle and bustle of collections. But, on Friday evening, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Vera Wang, Betsey Johnson, Elie Tahari and Nicole Miller sipped Champagne in East Hampton’s Guild Hall, where their work was featured in a new exhibit called, “The Art of Fashion in the Hamptons.” Curated by Stan Herman and Pamela Fiori, the show celebrates style on the East End and includes designer clothing alongside local art from the museum’s permanent collection.

Karan, who hung pieces from her Urban Zen line with a sculpture by her late husband, Stephan Weiss, insisted her contribution reflected the laidback Long Island lifestyle she’s known for decades, even if its name did not. “You can say ‘urban,’ but these are clothes that will take you anywhere,” she said.

This story first appeared in the August 18, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Wang felt similarly about her wardrobe. “There isn’t anything I wear in the city that I wouldn’t wear out here,” said the designer and Southampton resident. “I just style it differently — with flip-flops instead of dark hose and heels.”

Klein, meanwhile, felt that a different dress code applied out at the beach. “So many people do it wrong, but you have to do it just right,” said the designer, who paired a minimalistic sculpture by old friend Robert Wilson with looks from his spring 1998 collection. “You can’t wear tight, tight clothes or high, high heels — that’s the worst mistake you can make out here.”

Johnson, perhaps unsurprisingly, thought such restrictions were a thing of the past, at least as far as the Hamptons are concerned. “When I first came out here in the Sixties with the Velvet Underground, it was all ‘Grey Gardens,’” recalled the designer. “But after P. Diddy — or whatever you call him — moved out here, then everything changed. There were lots of funny-looking people who made lots of money.”

Afterward, the crowd headed over to interior designers Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper¹s estate for cocktails and dinner.

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