DALLAS — Masterful colorists and mavericks Dame Zandra Rhodes and Johnson Hartig of Libertine just might collaborate in the future.
The two discussed the idea briefly Friday morning in Dallas, where they met for the first time before sharing the spotlight at the annual Night of Stars gala at the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas.
“It felt like this fast friendship,” Hartig said later. “I call her my soul sister. I said we should do something and she said, ‘I’d love to. Let’s talk about it when I come to L.A.’ So, we’ll see. She’s very busy.”
Produced by the Dallas chapter of Fashion Group International, the fete’s “No Rules” theme celebrated Rhodes for Lifetime Achievement, Hartig for Career Achievement, Tata Harper for Career Achievement in Beauty and Gonzalo Bueno for Career Achievement in Interior Design. Bueno is a principal in X+III in Dallas and Treceavo Plano in Monterrey, Mexico.
During the cocktail hour, a clutch of models on a platform displayed a retrospective of gowns that Rhodes brought in from London. The dinner program featured a sparkling runway procession of Libertine looks for men and women.
Rhodes’ longtime friend and former model Jan Strimple presented her with the Lifetime Achievement prize, describing the “78 years young” designer as “indefatigable,” a “rebel,” an “original disruptor” and the “high priestess of punk.”
Taking the stage, Rhodes observed, “It’s wonderful seeing how everyone’s so dressed up because I think we mustn’t lose that wonderful realization of what clothes do for us. They can enhance our lives.”
The designer is preparing a 50th-anniversary book and a retrospective exhibition making its debut next year in London at the Fashion and Textile Museum, which she founded.
Neiman’s senior vice president and fashion director Ken Downing presented the Career Achievement award to Hartig. The men met two decades ago when the designer was a Neiman’s sales associate who could occasionally be found “napping in a box in a dressing room like a kitten,” Downing said.
“He is brilliantly talented, but he has the warmest heart and most loving soul of any individual I’ve ever met,” Downing affirmed. “So this crazy, over-the-top color-filled life that’s patterned, printed, mixed–never matched–and covered in Swarovski crystals comes from this amazing dear individual. So sweet is this man that twice a year he brings students from second grade to eighth grade into his atelier where they silkscreen T-shirts that they are able to take home.”
Hartig, who fretted before the program that he suffers from social anxiety, dissolved into tears at the podium.
“I cry every time I do this, and I know exactly why,” he finally said. “Recurrently I feel like I don’t deserve this. But then I look at a [runway] show like that, and I think that I’m so proud of myself. I’ve really done it on my own, on my own terms with no rules, and I just can’t believe that people want to wear these things that I create. It’s just pure, pure magic.”
There was certainly no shortage of his glittering styles among the 250 guests.
“I always say I feel more loved when I come to Dallas than I do anywhere else, with San Francisco a very close second and New York, of course,” Hartig told WWD. “There is something about that Southern hospitality and the welcome that we get here every time.”
Downing also presented Harper’s award.
“When I think of the career of Tata Harper, she understands how beauty is truly eternal,” he said. “Knowing that fashion and beauty knows no bounds, she decided to invent a creative beauty product that would be as good for you on the outside as on the inside.”
Harper, whose natural skin-care company is eight years old, said she felt like the rookie of the evening.
“Before I started, natural beauty was really minimal and simplistic and it had a bad reputation,” she pointed out. “Whenever you heard something was natural and organic in any other industry it was always an upgrade, but when it came to beauty, it was kind of looked down upon, that it probably won’t do much.…I’m a maximalist when it comes to beauty, and I think a lot of you guys share my tendency.”