WASHINGTON — “Who do I know who looks a little haggard?” quipped luncheon hostess Ali Wentworth, offering her own comedic take on the new Washington protocol for planning that perfect ladies luncheon. Cohosted with Shiseido to promote its new Future Solution LX line, show off a Japanese fashion retrospective and raise money for Baby Love D.C., Wentworth’s favorite cause, the party got a boost from a new, spirited social set, unafraid to tweak the old formulas for success.
The actress and comedienne, married to ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, gave 30 friends a chuckle when she elaborated on her guest list strategy. “I will pull together some women who need some help,” she said, as her friends jumped at the bait. “Is Michelle Obama coming?” called out her pal Elizabeth Thorp, who runs her own public relations firm.
“Definitely yes,” said Wentworth, noting the helicopter was due to land any minute on the lush grounds of the museum as guests dined on pumpkin bisque, risotto, sole and green tea ice cream, in a heated, clear tent.
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In addition to cosponsoring the luncheon, Shiseido also invited guests to tour The Textile Museum’s Japanese fashion retrospective, featuring the designs of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo.
“Back in the Seventies, Issey Miyake designed the outfits for our beauty consultants,” said Heidi Manheimer, chief executive officer of Shiseido Cosmetics America, who added that service is one rationale for Shiseido’s Internet strategy in the face of competition from hot Web sites like Gilt Groupe.
“Everyone here shops on Gilt,” said Thorp, naming Willow Bay, Disney chairman Bob Iger’s wife, as the one who got her hooked on the invitation-only luxury Web site that launched in Japan at the end of August.
Manheimer, who back in 2000 advised Bluemercury.com, a Washington-based cosmetics retailer before joining Shiseido, explained, “We are limited online to our bricks-and-mortar stores like Macy’s, Neiman’s and Saks. We do it as a service for our customers, where we can also offer full in-store product information with live sales consultants.”
That said, she conceded that Gilt’s marketing plan of invitation-only membership has appeal. “The success of the whole online business isn’t a surprise. The way in which the Web site is marketed is what catches on.”
As for the D.C. fashion scene, guests favored Prada and Chanel with a dash of H&M
. Leading the mix-and-match pack, Wentworth donned four-inch high-heeled Prada boots, with black leggings under a Narciso Rodriguez black wool pencil skirt with a full-length silver-metal back zipper, a Vera Wang top and a Proenza Schouler jacket.