NEW YORK — For any young woman — or two, as the case may be — navigating New York’s social whirl requires the ability to change on the go.
During New York Fashion Week in September, for example, Byrdie Bell and Olivia Palermo received invitations (and outfits on loan) for the Zac Posen and Calvin Klein after parties. And since both events were on the same night, this created a predicament of sorts: Whose frocks would they wear?
So the two young ladies used a town car as a makeshift closet, unzipping their Zac Posen numbers and jumping into their Calvins between the events, thereby ensuring that homage would be paid where homage was due.
“It just seemed appropriate,” says Palermo, laughing at the memory. “It helps the designer out and we love dressing up.”
They sure do.
In the past six months, Palermo and Bell have been painting the town red, decked out at virtually every envelope opening that has a junior committee. There they were at the Young Friends for the Met dance. And there they were at the annual New Yorkers for Children Gala. First, they started making the party pages. Then came a phone call from Vogue to appear in a photo shoot for the magazine’s October issue.
Now, the two find themselves on tip sheets for benefits, which is more than a little amusing to some — and quite a little annoying to others, given that neither of them has anything resembling a career, philanthropic skills or a storied last name.
They grew up near each other in Greenwich, Conn., but they weren’t what you’d call fast friends. Bell, an aspiring actress, is the daughter of New York Times best-selling author Ted Bell, who writes political fiction. (“Hopefully, they’ll make his books into movies so I can star in them,” Bell says.) Palermo, 20, is studying history at the New School. Her father is in real estate and her mother is an interior designer.
But they spent their childhoods avoiding each other.
“Our mothers went to boarding school together,” explains Bell, “but Olivia’s a year younger than I am, and for a long time I didn’t really want to be friends with her.”
This story first appeared in the November 27, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“When your parents try to set you up with somebody, it always backfires, you know?” is how Palermo puts it.
Fittingly, the two realized they were meant to be friends when they bumped into each other one night last year at Bungalow 8.
“She was so charming and nice and beautiful, so I said, ‘Let’s have lunch,’” Bell continues.
They had lots in common — for one thing, they’re both sample size.
“They’re an example of product seeding,” explains one high-profile fashion publicist. “They fit in the clothes, so they get a free dress for an evening and the designer gets a chance to make the party pages.”
And editors are always on the lookout for the next pretty face.
“Their youthfulness is what we noticed about them,” says Vogue’s style director Alexandra Kotur. “They look great.”