The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s annual winter lunch is typically a sea of moneyed Park Avenue charity types who gather in early February, on one of the precious last days before the collections circus kicks off, to open their checkbooks. It’s attended by those who are schooled in the art of the charity luncheon; being photographed at them is their career of sorts. But there was a bit of an interloper holding court over this year’s event, held in the dining room of Daniel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

“It’s very American,” Inès de la Fressange said of the charity lunch concept. She was doing her due diligence as brand ambassador for Roger Vivier, the sponsor for this go-around, and was serving as the function’s official hostess. “For me, it’s fun,” she continued, her eyes scanning the room of ladies grazing their trays of hors d’oeuvres (typically French, de la Fressange declined the bites but gasped with pleasure when a glass of red wine was fetched for her — servers were only profferring white). “Because I can pretend it’s the 1950s.”

De la Fressange, in a dark Prada sweater and a black jacket from her Uniqlo collaboration, was sipping from her glass when a guest approached, gushing about the model’s namesake apparel line from the Nineties. De la Fressange responded by revealing that she’s in fact opening a bazaar on the Rue de Grenelle in Paris in May, where she’ll sell clothes constructed with vintage fabrications and leftover fabric swatches from luxury houses. The shop will also sell products from de la Fressange’s various licensees.

Before the main course was served, the society’s president Martha Vietor Glass introduced Dr. Paul Meyers, who gave remarks, and thanked de la Fressange for flying into New York especially for the lunch. Former French Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck led the room in exuberant applause. De la Fressange just took a hit of her electronic cigarette and playfully glared at her friend.

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