PET PROJECTS: The gentleman with the mustache sketching in the front row at Dennis Basso’s fashion show this week was none other than Leroy Neiman. But he wasn’t about to show his handiwork to a stranger after the show. “These are duds. I like to draw at these things, but sometimes while I’m evaluating the models, I get distracted. Frank Sinatra said he always judged a woman by the way she walked.”
Fashion isn’t such a stretch, considering Neiman sketched for Marshall Field’s in Chicago when he was a young artist trying to make ends meet. “If people send invitations, I’d like to go to more of these,” he said.
Other guests included Nicole Miller, Star Jones, Janice Combs, and Rocco DiSpirito and Chloë Sevigny brought their mothers. Sevigny is about to stir up flashbacks of the Scarsdale diet. Her latest project is “Mrs. Harris,” a film about the former headmistress of a girls’ school, Jean Harris, who killed Scarsdale diet creator Dr. Herman Tarnower. Ben Kingsley, Annette Bening and Ellen Burstyn also appear.
Unknown to Sevigny until she started filming, her parents were once neighbors of Harris. Sevigny’s mother, Janine, said, “She would always get mad when my brother-in-law visited because his dog would get into her garden.”
GRADUATION DAY: Zac Posen headlined the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising’s commencement ceremony at the Puck Building this week and brought Claire Danes for moral support — as both were feeling a bit nervous, having dropped out of college themselves. Posen never finished his studies at Central Saint Martins in London, and Danes hasn’t exactly been aggressive in her academic pursuits since she enrolled at Yale in 1998.
“Zac and I joked that we are mooching off this graduation,” Danes said. “I went to Yale for two years, but I don’t think I’m going to be going back anytime soon. I used to daydream that I’d just get pregnant so I could take time off and go back, but I’ve even abandoned that.”
Seriously, though, Posen and Danes had some strong words of encouragement for the LIM graduates, noting that designers need to rely on strong business minds to help them succeed. “You can be as imaginative about business as a designer is creative about clothing,” Posen said.
“The rules are constantly changing —?even in the four years since I left London, I’ve seen huge parts of this industry change,” he said. “People have become dulled to advertising. It’s important to find other ways to market yourself and market your clothes.”
Posen pointed to the remarkable influx of celebrities into designer ad campaigns, but predicted the pendulum will quickly swing back to models. For her part, Danes said she was conflicted about the prospect of appearing in a fashion ad, but wouldn’t discount the idea altogether.
“I used to be much more moralistic about it, but maybe my values have shifted,” she said. “There are so many actors who really are serious and gifted, who are volunteering themselves as models. It’s not a priority for me, but never say never.”
CHELSEA’S SHOE PROBLEM: “I’ve had those Pradas for years, it’s fine,” said Chelsea Clinton, who deftly handled a shoe crisis before arriving at a British Embassy party in time to meet Dame Judi Dench. Dench was in Washington early last week to receive this year’s Will Award, presented by Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre. Clinton, a Shakespeare Theatre fan from her days of living in the White House (not to mention attending Oxford University), was just coming out of the matinee performance of “Henry IV” when the 4-inch heel of one of her Prada shoes snapped. Clinton, heel in hand, headed back to her parents’ house to change shoes, accompanied by her date, Ian Klaus, a friend from their days together at Oxford. Klaus works in New York as an assistant book writer. “We’re neighbors,” said Catherine Manning, wife of the British ambassador, Sir David Manning, who greeted Clinton in the garden. Oscar-winning actress Dench confided that she loves her new role as “M,” Pierce Brosnan’s boss in the latest James Bond film. “It is fun being so amazingly powerful — a woman who is the boss of this very powerful man — when, in fact, I can’t work anything, not even an ironing board,” she said. Dench was last in Washington in 1958, touring with the Old Vic. As Kahn stood on the steps leading out to the embassy’s garden, Dench called out, “Michael, are you about to make a speech or be assassinated?” To which Kahn gamely replied, “Et tu, Judi?”