PUTTING EGOS ASIDE: “We want everyone in the [Obama] administration to know that they are welcome to be part of our artistic community,” said Victor Shargai, chairman of the Helen Hayes Awards, who was one of dozens of leading Washington theatrical patrons at Tuesday’s “Welcome to Washington” tribute. The party and show at the 775-seat Harman Center was organized by Michael Kahn, artistic director of The Shakespeare Theatre Company, and was a command performance for a theater scene used to snatching success out from often harrowing jaws of political gamesmanship. The gala proved the community’s mettle. Not only was First Lady Michelle Obama billed as the headliner, but the inviting committee featured a powerhouse lineup of Supreme Court justices — Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito; Sens. Susan Collins and Dianne Feinstein; Washington Post Co. chairman Donald Graham, and British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald and his wife, Julia. Such muscle was utilized in an 11th hour push to fill the hall. “I got my invitation yesterday,” said one prominent guest, who was excited to be included. “This White House needs to give invitees more than 24 hours advance notice,” groused another, who never got the word. Tuesday’s event seemed to have come together at the last minute, even though it had been in the works for more than a month. Just a week ago, at the gathering of actors, producers, directors and patrons for the 25th Helen Hayes Award, no one breathed a word about the upcoming tribute. Then, at an April 15 private party in Georgetown for leaders of the city’s burgeoning theatrical community, White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers appeared to help ratchet up the tribute’s profile. Shortly afterward, the buzz began to build: Rogers was bringing the First Lady. In the end, Tuesday’s event turned out to be an example of the kind of collaboration the new administration hopes to foster in the nation’s capital. “The idea was to bring together communities that haven’t always worked together,” said one guest of the theatrical groups appearing on stage, which included The Washington National Opera, the Arena Stage, Signature Theater, Step Africa, Synetic Theater, the Shakespeare Theater, the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Washington Ballet and the Washington Bach Consort. A moment’s peace, at least on stage.
DECKED OUT: Marlies Dekkers, the upscale Dutch lingerie brand whose sexy bras and undies are being bandied about by Britney Spears in her Circus Tour, closed its first boutique in the U.S. in early April at the Plaza Retail Collection in Manhattan. Dekkers, which opened the 1,400-square-foot shop at The Plaza in November, joins the exit of Manrico cashmere, whose former 850-square-foot spot will be occupied by Douglas Hannant this fall. Myrthe van Haren, a communications director for the Dekkers firm, said, “There was no traffic. It was always dead because there was no marketing or signage to bring people in. There were all of these odd jewelry, accessories and chocolate stores. If Marc Jacobs had a store there, it would have made a difference. We are now looking to open a boutique in SoHo and the collection will be launched at Bergdorf Goodman on May 1.”
STORAGE SPACE: Garde Robe, initially conceived of as an outsourced closet for New York socials, has also found favor with designers pressed for space. Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and others have tapped the service to store their archives, and Alexander McQueen has stashed a couture gown and rehearsal dinner dress for a fall wedding. “It’s a very expensive piece, and we just want to make sure it’s in perfect condition and we are quite short on storage space,” said Melissa Beste, president of Alexander McQueen North America. “If it was just a few weeks, we could have managed it, but four months is a long period of time.”
SUMMER FUN: Flip-flop season has arrived. To celebrate, the Gap — in partnership with Brazilian sandal maker Havaianas — is transforming its New York concept store into an urban beach oasis with a “Make Your Own Havaianas” customization bar. Adjacent to its Fifth Avenue Midtown flagship, the special shop will offer custom-made summer footwear from April 30 through June 13. Styles retail from $18 to $32 and come in bold colors and neutrals. Shoppers can also choose from embellishments and add-ons like pins and crystals. “This urban beach in the heart of the city is the perfect way to transition into the season,” said Ivy Ross, executive vice president of Gap Marketing.
BRAZILIAN BOMBSHELL: Issa, the ready-to-wear label founded by Brazilian-born Daniella Helayel that specializes in slinky jersey dresses, has big plans to expand. According to sources in London, Issa plans to open its first retail shop on Mount Street — home to brands including Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin and Balenciaga — over the next few months. Another store at São Paolo’s Iguatemi mall is in the works, as is an e-commerce component to the Web site. The label is defying the downturn in luxury, too, with sales reported to be up 20 percent year-on-year for spring.
SOURCING RAINBOWS: The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Department of International Trade & Marketing got more than it bargained for when it tapped Donald Baum to receive its Global Sourcing Executive of the Year award on Tuesday. After sending out invitations to the breakfast awards presentation and fund-raiser, FIT was so overwhelmed with responses that it moved the event from the school’s campus to the Rainbow Room. In his acceptance speech, Baum recounted his start in the apparel industry some 30 years ago as a cutter with a shirt company. At the time, Baum said he could not have foreseen a career that took him to more than 60 countries and expand his food repertoire to include delicacies like “winter frog soup” and “snake wine.” Baum now oversees some 50 brands at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., producing 170 million garments a year. Christine Pomeranz, chairperson of the International Trade & Marketing department, said a record-setting $600,000 had been raised for the program in Baum’s name, enough to provide between four and five $20,000 scholarships each year.