Byline: Eric Wilson
NEW YORK — It’s safe to say that The Metropolitan Club — that stiff-backed, jacket-and-tie society enclave formed a century ago by the Morgans, Whitneys, Vanderbilts and their ilk — will never be the same.
Not after the invasion of John Galliano. On Tuesday night he stormed the 104-year-old Stanford White palazzo that dominates the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 60th Street with an army of gloriously provocative lovers, done up in the style of deliciously charming decadence that Galliano has all but trademarked.
The event was the debut of the designer’s fur collection for Stallion Furs, which also produces the Ben Kahn and Dennis Basso lines. It immediately raised the bar for future showings. Those in the audience who cover the European collections and are familiar with Galliano’s high-drama escapades for his own house and that of Christian Dior loved it; newcomers to his perfectly executed esthetic were absolutely mesmerized. The guest list ranged from Jocelyne Wildenstein to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who left when he wasn’t offered a separate, secured entrance.
Galliano wanted to recreate the home of Casanova, the notorious 18th-century lover. Two rooms, Casavona’s banquet hall and boudoir, were done up to appear as if the most lascivious party ever had just ended, the guests falling into assorted sexual liaisons. Half-eaten food lay on the plates, red wine was spilled here and there, and a pile of slightly wilted fruit made a giant centerpiece. The whole scene was overrun with an orgy of 4,000 roses, 600 Catalea orchids and mounds of apples, plums, pears and scarlet pomegranates. Just about every bunch of grapes available at wholesale in Manhattan — more than 40 crates in all — was woven throughout setting.
More than a dozen Casanovas decked out in high-camp drag with beauty marks, breeches and gauze shirts pranced and lounged about. Galliano’s live-for-the-moment girls ranged from 18th-century glamour types to those of the flapper variety, all wildly wanton but with hearts of gold.
They paraded a spectacular lineup of fur and fur-trimmed coats that reeked of unabashed luxury — chinchillas, broadtails and pastel foxes, all featuring many of Galliano’s favorite themes, from lavish embroideries to ample cocoon shapes and flirtatious shrugs.
Of course, Galliano’s showmanship is a double-edged pleasure, and he has sometimes been criticized for letting clothes play second-fiddle to the event. One retailer said that on Tuesday, “theatrics took away from the fur coats.”
Others, however, saw this as an important moment for the fur industry. “It was just what the furriers needed,” said Kim Major, buyer and manager at the fur salon at Bergdorf Goodman, as she rushed out. “I was left disappointed after the market week and this made up for it.”
Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, added that the store buyers were so impressed, they went directly to the Stallion showroom here Wednesday.
“It was great drama,” Kaner said. “The furs were extraordinary and they were very typically Galliano.”
It was so elaborate, in fact, that many guests were buzzing about how much it all must have cost. Whatever the ticket, and it was clearly exorbitant — especially by fur show standards — sources within the market said it was paid for by Stallion and the houses of Dior and Galliano.
At least they got the grapes at cost.