Byline: Robert Haskell
All those stars funneling into a giant spiral — it looked like the Milky Way. But if you’re Giorgio Armani, only something stellar would do.
At Wednesday night’s party to celebrate the Guggenheim Museum’s retrospective of his work, stellar first appeared in the form of Michelle Pfeiffer.
But that was just the beginning. Two hours later, more than 900 hundred people had made the climb, stopping to gape at Robert Wilson’s headless mannequins that clustered about the winding walls of the museum like the chicest of wallflowers.
“Giorgio’s very sensitive,” Pfeiffer said, “and he loves women. I’ve been wearing his clothes ever since they were part of my wardrobe in ‘Scarface.”‘
When Patti Smith arrived in a military-styled mink trench from the Seventies, Armani yanked the coat open to confirm that it was his own — then swallowed her in a bear hug.
“This was my first big indulgence,” Smith said. “I used to buy his jackets to wear on stage because they were loose and fit like a man’s. I’d wait until they were marked down at Bergdorf Goodman, but when I acquired some money in 1978 I bought this coat.”
Of course, everyone wore Armani, from Claudia Cardinale to Denise Richards, Robert DeNiro to Cuba Gooding Jr., Foxy Brown to Marina Rust. And even those who claim to hate fashion made the pilgrimage.
“I’m not obsessed with clothes,” Glenn Close confessed. “I hate shopping. And I’m majorly terrified of accessories. That whole part of what I do is painful to me, and Armani solves that problem because I just throw on a dress and it’s all I really need.”
“Armani, to me, is beyond a designer,” Donna Karan said. “He’s a master. I’ve always seen myself as the feminine of him. He starts with men’s wear and softens it. I start with women’s wear and build the man on top.”
As the crowd at the Guggenheim thickened, it got harder and harder to see the clothes — and certain guests had come in search of specific dresses.
“I can’t find mine,” said Lauren Bacall, who’d donated a ten-year-old navy number to the exhibition, as she made her way up the ramp. “I wanted to give something old, because to me the interesting thing is being part of the history.”
When 9 o’clock rolled around, the crowd raced down to 57th Street for dinner high above the city. The room was so dark, lit only by the dimmest of red bulbs, that it was almost impossible to see the crowd gathered around a table in the corner, making toasts and picking at Daniel Boulud’s asparagus risotto.
Blaine and Robert Trump were catching up with Pat Reilly, the Miami Heat coach, who’d flown in to thank the man who taught him how to dress.
“The first suit I ever had was Armani,” Reilly said. “He fitted me himself in L.A. Now, it’s the only thing I wear — the suits, the shirts, the ties. But I haven’t tried out his underwear.”
Across the table, Ashley Judd held court with Pete Sampras, his wife and the Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta. Judd had gotten a jolt earlier in the evening when she walked into the exhibition only to find that one of the members of Destiny’s Child was wearing her green sequin-and-chiffon pants. Judd raced out for a quick change, and by dinnertime she was wearing a black strapless ballgown.
Across the room, things were getting mellow. Pfeiffer sat flanked by David Kelley, her husband, and Fisher Stevens, her ex-husband. Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson caught up with DeNiro, and nearby, Isabella Rossellini sank into her couch to watch the late arrival of Grace Jones.
And Lady Helen Taylor, who may as well be Armani’s British ambassador for all her social appearances in those lacy blouses, stopped to explain her devotion.
“I first discovered Armani ten years ago,” she said, “in London, actually. It’s the style I most relate to.”
As for Deeda Blair, a woman usually identified with the houses of Chanel and Saint Laurent, one word sufficed to account for all the Armani in her closet: “Daytime.”
A few velvet cushions away from her, Armani and Richard Gere — two people who owe so much of their success to one another — were finally getting a chance to pay their respects.
“You’re an icon,” Armani’s translator told Gere. “Even the way you put on your ties.” The designer made an imaginary slip knot with his hands, no doubt a reference to the scene in “American Gigolo” that made Gere an instant star and sent many an American businessman out in search of his first slouchy Armani suit.
“Giorgio,” Gere said, “everywhere I go, whether it’s the States or Europe or Mexico — anywhere — one thing people always tell me is how genius it was to have me dance my way into that outfit.”