NEW YORK — In the Gramercy Park Hotel’s moodily lit Rose Bar Thursday night, the guest of honor, Robert Lee Morris, helped members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America envision Atlantis, of all things.
Morris, who will be the first recipient of the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award next month, said the view of Manhattan he eyed from a plane beneath the previous night’s full moon was so enchanting, it reminded him of the mythical, long-lost island.
“Suddenly, I realized I was looking at the new Atlantis. It’s the land of some of the most original artists, designers, thinkers and influencers,” the accessories designer said.
Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Richard Lambertson, Yeohlee, Doo-Ri Chung, Stan Herman and William Calvert were among the designers in the room, and Morris had personal ties to several. Von Furstenberg said seeing Morris conjured up memories of Artwear, the gallery he opened on the Upper East Side in 1977 and relocated to SoHo the following year. “Artwear was such a cool, cool place. For me, he represents an era. He’s very Studio 54,” she said. R. Scott Bromley, the architect who designed Studio 54, provided another reminder.
Klein and Karan, who will present the award to Morris at next month’s event, have also known him since way back when. Morris has collaborated on Karan’s jewelry and accessories for years, and Klein first visited Morris’ studio in the late Seventies, and their collaboration for Klein’s fall 1981 runway show resulted in a Coty award for Morris. At one point, Morris was working with Klein and Kansai Yamamoto at the same time. “It was so schizophrenic,” Morris laughed.
Newly minted CFDA president von Furstenberg spoke of the group’s renewed sense of camaraderie. “I think there’s a lot of excitement right now with American fashion with the Vogue Fashion Fund and the Gap working with designers,” she said. “It’s only been a few months, but I feel like we are onto good things. For the people who are doing well, it’s about giving back. For the people who are getting started, it’s about receiving.”
Bernadette Peters said she was a recipient of Morris’ generosity, even though her only real tie to fashion is her friend Karan. The gold necklace around her neck was something Morris made for her after she admired one on someone else.
Her pal Karan was also in good spirits, despite the fact that Susan Morris, Robert’s wife, was wearing the same printed racer-back dress. The latter didn’t wait for the inevitable awkward moment.
“OK, let’s get this over with now,” Susan Morris laughed, wrapping an arm around Karan’s shoulder, to the photographers’ delight.
“No way, no how. I wouldn’t stand next to her. She’s half my size,” Karan said playfully.
Morris, meanwhile, basked in the merriment, which he expects to continue for a few months. “My 60th birthday is in July, so this is all being lumped together. I see all of this as a major turning point.”