ROYAL GESTURES SERVED AT FIT
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — It was not the usual guest arrival for an event at the Fashion Institute of Technology Tuesday night.
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, swept into FIT’s museum, surrounded by a pack of gun-toting bodyguards in blue business suits and a small school of more nondescript handlers. His Royal Highness dashed in the building and buzzed downstairs to the exhibition “London Fashion.” Near the entrance, where the rolled-out red carpet hit the gray industrial mat, two men dressed in ruffles and red attire — generally only seen on these shores decorating Beefeater gin bottles — greeted him.
“He was moving pretty quick. I don’t think he noticed us, even with this outfit on,” said Ron Porvo, a model who was decked out in Beefeater garb circa 1820. “The girls chased him downstairs. Maybe they’ll get in a picture with him.”
But not even the girls, the ones in the short red Beefeater dresses and the wide fishnet Wolford stockings, could shoulder up to the prince. That spot was reserved for someone else. Dressed in a blue suit sans artillery, FIT president Dr. Joyce Brown escorted him through a 30-minute tour of the 100 outfits displayed from Mary Quant’s miniskirt to Stella McCartney’s Union Jack blazer.
Along the way, Prince Andrew perused zebra stilettos by Manolo Blahnik, and provocative looks of Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and other British designers. There were also a few nods to royalty. But he passed by clothes by Boudicca, a label named after the Celtic queen who led a revolt against the Roman Empire, and a Westwood T-shirt imprinted with an image of his mom, Queen Elizabeth, with “God Save the Queen” printed over her eyes and “Sex Pistols” over her mouth, without a word.
What did engage the prince was the textile designs of Sophie Roet, a current FIT student with a pixie cut and a British accent included in his private tour. He spent several minutes examining the glass case with a sapphire blue textile sample and Roet’s multicolored translucent design.
“He asked me, ‘How much material is here?”‘ Roet said, “and then he asked, ‘How much material would I need to make a dress — that would be discreet?’ to much laughter.
“I also said that textile designers need to get more recognition and he agreed,” added Roet, cooling her cheeks with her hands and then adjusting the jacket tied around her waist.
After catching the show, Prince Andrew joined in on the festivities, chatting up some unsuspecting guests like FIT student Erin Berry and her friends, Midge Ritchie, an FIT employee, and Michael Cunningham, design coordinator for Joan Vass.
“I didn’t think there would be any chance of meeting him tonight. I thought he’d be kept away from everyone,” Cunningham said.
Robert Cassidy, vice counsel of trade for the British Consulate-General, said he told Prince Andrew that a number of British retailers visited textile and apparel trade shows here Tuesday in what was thought to be a goodwill mission, but wound up doing business there as an act of solidarity. As the main ambassador for trade in England, he was pleased to hear the news and continues to plug trade development, Cassidy said.
Prince Andrew also asked consulate representatives to convey how “terribly appreciative” he was for their efforts in helping fellow Brits try to locate their loved ones following the WTC attacks.
After the royal exit, Brown said her guest was “quite fascinated” with the evolution of British fashion from historical to more funkier styles. He was also “truly interested” in the development of fabrics and the relationship between textile designers and their work.
Having had a fairly packed day, including a stop at Asprey & Garrard’s Fifth Avenue flagship to open “Amalgamate,” an exhibition encompassing British designers, artists and photographers, Prince Andrew was ready to buzz off.
“I think he was happy to call it a night,” Brown said. “He was exhausted.”