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NEW YORK — At just after 11 on Thursday morning, following a trunk-show run-through at Bergdorf Goodman, Stella McCartney sat perched on a banquette in The Carlyle hotel with sugar on her mind.
As the designer — the epitome of her brand’s sporty-chic image with her auburn hair swept into a neat bun and wearing a black ruffled jacket, jeans and diamonds aplenty — dipped her pinky into a mini jar of honey, she was already thinking about her next fix: the dessert menu at her private dinner party later that evening.
“We’re doing floating islands,” she said before describing the egg-white and custard dish as “very kitsch, very Fifties Florida; Ginger Rogers, but very posh.”
When it came to her guest list, McCartney was not one to talk. “I think of my friends, all of them — whether celebs or not — as friends,” she said. “I think it’s a little unchic to announce the ones that are celebrities.”
WWD later learned that Jeff and Justine Koons, François Pinault, Anna Wintour, Liv Tyler, Uma Thurman, Jessica Seinfeld, Helena Christensen, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann, Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant all attended the dinner.
Of course, famous friends and custard confections weren’t the only thing on McCartney’s Manhattan agenda. She’s not often in New York these days. In fact, this was her first trip to the States since the birth of her second child, daughter Bailey, in December. “It’s funny. When you have kids, you sort of stop traveling,” she said. “I try and stay in one place as much as I can.”
She’ll be making the most of her short stay before heading home to London on Tuesday. Included in her packed schedule was Thursday’s trunk show, a cocktail party at BG, the private dinner at The Carlyle and tonight’s Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “It’s the first year we have our own table,” she said with a laugh. “We made it. We can finally have our own table at the Met.” Once again, McCartney was mum on who, aside from her husband, Alasdhair Willis, would be sitting with them.
Amid the fashion frenzy, McCartney had plans to squeeze in a little extracurricular activity. “I’m going to take my kids to FAO Schwarz if it kills me,” she said, noting the weekend would be spent with her family at their East Hampton home.
But before she got to any islands, floating or Long, the designer had a rather busy day to navigate. After a morning spent talking Bergdorf’s sales staff through her pre-fall and fall collections, McCartney and her brood were off to a playdate with Liv Tyler and her son, Milo.
“People think we’re so glamorous,” said Tyler, who that afternoon interviewed McCartney for a forthcoming Japanese Vogue story, and later hosted the evening’s cocktail party with Christensen and Seinfeld. “But we’re sitting on the floor with babies crying and boogers.”
Any evidence of that was gone by the time McCartney made her fashionably late entrance at the trunk show at 5 p.m. There she was, back in superchic mode, in a short black dress and satin platform sandals. The customers queued up on Bergdorf’s third floor — transformed, Stella-style, into a proper English garden punched up with colorful bowls of Nerds, Pop Rocks and giant lollipops — to take photos with the designer, ask for autographs and, most important, shop.
“I always feel a little bit uncomfortable when they put something on and I say, ‘That looks great on you,'” said McCartney. “I always feel like they think I’m lying just to sell a jacket, which I’m so not doing.”
But judging from the way women preened and posed in her clothes, perceived insincerity wasn’t an issue. “Everyone digs Stella,” said Bergdorf Goodman president Jim Gold, who stopped by to take in the madness, as did Sybil Yurman, who happened upon the trunk show while shopping for her Costume Institute ensemble.
“Isn’t this gorgeous?” she asked, holding a soft pink knit top. In the end, Yurman suspected Chanel would be her designer du jour for tonight’s fete. Still, she walked out the door with three McCartney pieces. (By noon Friday, sales at the two-day event had topped $400,000.)
“Shall we go have a beer?” asked McCartney after the last of her fans trickled out, a little after 6 p.m. So it was up to the evening’s party at BG on Bergdorf’s seventh floor, which, in her honor, was refashioned into an English pub, complete with dartboards, foosball tables and a menu of vegetarian pub grub, including lentil shepherd’s pie, veggie pigs in a blanket, crispy kettle chips and mini sticky toffee puddings. To wash it down, there were Pimm’s-and-lemonade cocktails, Stella Artois and, of course, Guinness. “It’s good for you,” said McCartney, holding up a pint. “There’s iron in it.”
While the models from the trunk show hit the foosball table, Christensen and Tyler, both in McCartney, took in the first department store performance by Arckid, the band of Tyler’s husband, Royston Langdon. In between sets, the leggy ladies BlackBerryed with Petra Nemcova, while other industry folk, such as Cindi Leive, Linda Wells, Cecilia Dean and Bergdorf’s own Roopal Patel, wearing “vintage” McCartney, made their way through the elbow-to-elbow crowd.
“I saw Stella this morning and she gave me her approval,” said Patel of her fall 2006 ensemble. “She doesn’t believe in seasons. You can wear old Stella.”
Indeed, it seemed all the guests were enamored with the laid-back lady of the hour and her designs. “I’ve never worn her clothes before, but, in a way, they have worn my images,” said Koons, referring to the designer’s spring 2006 collection, which included prints culled from his work. “My wife loves her clothes.”
While the bustling pub atmosphere had everyone in high spirits, at least one person was looking forward to the next, slightly more intimate, setting. “Stella and I know each other from her old Chloé days,” said Christensen. “But we’re both so busy now, we have to meet up at events like this and we always say, ‘Let’s have dinner.’ So, we are after this.”
Dinner and, of course, floating islands.