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The sun slowly inched into the Hudson River and illuminated the glass windows and roofs of western Chelsea, casting the brand-new Hôtel Americano in rose and then bruise-colored tones on Wednesday night.


This story first appeared in the August 12, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

It did little to illuminate a mystery presented to guests upon entrance.

“First, please just sign this waiver,” a petite woman in a hotel uniform said as she greeted the Young Friends of ACRIA, headed to a dinner to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the youth group associated with the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America.

“It just says that we’re not open yet,” she went on. “But you can’t come in until you sign it.”

With visions of plummeting off the roof or pieces of metal scaffolding raining down on unsuspecting heads, the woman was asked if the form was a release from liability.

“It’s just that we’re not done yet,” she chirped before scuttling away.

The expansive roof-terrace and its enviable panoramic views seemed to be stable enough to play host to a small swarm of designers, artists and socials who encircled a small lap pool and adult-sized bean-bag loungers. Chelsea Leyland manned the DJ booth, where the dyed-purple tips of her bleach-blonde hair undulated as she skipped along to the music. Leyland, who has spent most of the summer months at Ruschmeyer’s, her boyfriend Ben Pundole’s new Montauk-based “summer camp for adults,” was eager to share insight from “Tapped,” a documentary she had seen about the purported deceit of the bottled water industry.

“They’re just too rich and nobody’s watching,” Leyland bemoaned of the companies, “Clean drinking water is a basic human right, not a commodity. And we just drink this stuff, not knowing what it’s doing to us.”

Francisco Costa, a longtime friend of ACRIA, surveyed the scene but left before dinner began, pausing to greet Prabal Gurung and Maggie Betts on his way out. Betts was clad in a two-tiered black satin cloud of fabric, which she had created by combining a piece from Gurung’s latest collection with Lanvin from her closet.

“It’s not a dress, but everybody thinks it is,” she laughed.

Angel Otero, Bibhu Mohapatra, Chris Benz, Marjorie Gubelmann and Jason Wu were all on hand for the dinner, which ended with some vigorous dancing poolside. At a table facing north, as the lights of Times Square crested over buildings in the distance, Waris Ahluwalia was in pains to describe his jewelry line to the uninitiated. Grinning triumphantly, he finally decided.

“It’s halfway between incredible and beautiful,” Ahluwalia explained. “That’s pretty modest, right?”

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