“This would be a lot easier in jeans,” said Hannah Olivennes, the 18-year-old daughter of actress Kristin Scott Thomas, as 23 debutantes descended the grand staircase for the annual Crillon Ball in Paris on Saturday night. “I wasn’t going to do it initially, but who would turn down the possibility of wearing Chanel couture?”
As usual, the ballroom proved quite the novelty for the newest wave of European debs. “I’m not sure people will want to see my waltz moves,” protested Princess Costanza della Torre e Tasso, whose statuesque frame was engulfed in her red Hardy Amies gown. “I could get lost in here.” The Italian princess was joined by Belgium’s Princess Alexandra de Croÿ-Roeulx, who wore Givenchy. Meanwhile, Princess Caroline von Thurn und Taxis, who made her debut in Paris in 2004, had her own tip for the debs. “It’s important to smile,” Caroline advised.
Meanwhile, New York’s Upper East Side princess Angela Mellon followed in the footsteps of her elder sister Diana, who made her entrance at the ball in 2003. “I came for fashion week and picked out my dress at the show,” Mellon said of her Christian Lacroix number.
For Elisabeth Senghor, the event was a double debut of sorts. The granddaughter of Abdou Diouf and grand-niece of Léopold Senghor, both past presidents of Senegal, she was the first African debutante to grace the Crillon Ball. Representing China, Xiaodan Chen opened the ball to “The Emperor Waltz” by Johann Strauss.
Since the event is all about coming of age, it was only natural some of the debutantes displayed a newfound authority. “Can you tell me how to use this flash?” asked photographer Peter Beard of his debutante daughter Zara Beard, who sported a Dior gown. Caroline Ghosn, daughter of Renault and Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, was getting crystal-slipper service. “Isn’t this the best?” said Ghosn, a first-year student at Stanford, as her boyfriend, Vladimir Tenev, knelt on one knee to help her slip into her shimmering slippers. “Just like Cinderella.”
This story first appeared in the November 28, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Another set of royals gathered in London last Tuesday night. “You look beautiful,” mouthed proud mama Princess Michael of Kent to her daughter Lady Gabriella Windsor, who hosted a dinner to celebrate the impending opening of Ralph Lauren’s Moscow store this spring. Windsor was aglow in a ruched, red taffeta Ralph Lauren creation at the dinner at the designer’s Bond Street store.
“I’m getting more involved with the fashion world, which is a real treat,” said Windsor, who has been covering the couture shows for London’s Evening Standard.
Windsor, herself of Russian descent, had rounded up the cream of London’s Russian set for the candlelit evening, including Count and Countess Nikolai Tolstoy-Miloslavsky, Veronica Smirnoff and oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who mingled with the likes of Freddie Windsor, Jasmine Guinness, Saffron Aldridge, Rosie Innes Ker and Eloise Anson.
Meanwhile, back in New York the same night, dance-lovers dove in at the New York City Ballet’s Opening Night Benefit. Guests like Coco Kopelman, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Nina Griscom, Fé Fendi, co-chair Patricia Shiah, and Valentino (rounding out his New York visit) took in a jam-packed eight-piece program before heading to the promenade for dinner and dancing. Anne Hathaway was thrilled with the performance — especially since she herself is no ballerina. “I danced a bit when I was younger, but I was too much of a sissy to continue,” she said.