Nothing brings this town together like self-promoting creative one-upmanship in the name of charity. A bevy of uptown fashion types had taken over the first floor of Barneys on Thursday at a fundraising party for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Hyperactive marketing whiz Matt Goias had organized a silent auction of celebrity-crafted Lacoste polos, with Sarah Jessica Parker and Betsey Johnson joining in the design fun.
The Fader‘s Eddie Brannan contributed an alligator that—what?—shitted out iconography of Malcolm X and maps of Africa. I was baffled by this bizarre feces fixation—but, you know, that’s his thing. Actress Debi Mazar did a cute tailored number with whipstitched darts down the side. In what I guess they considered a stroke of genius, skin-care company Sundari just threw a sari over the shirt and called it a day. Designer Zak Posen offered a tailored mock-croc leather rendition—wear that shit out with Mopsy and Biff at the Scarsdale Country Club!
Lacoste creative director Christophe Lemaire has been playing on the line’s former preppie pomp and redoing the duds with a hint of ironic thrift-shop chic, circa ’86. I keep thinking ’83: upturned collars and aviator glasses à la Jake Ryan. Here, Lemaire doubled as a DJ, spinning ’60s r&b and “Fuck tha Police” for that nerdy boy from The New Guy, actress Rashida Jones, models Irina Pantaeva, Devon Aoki, and Claudia Schiffer, and—randomly—Chris from Road Rules Europe. Paris Hilton (or was it Nicky? I don’t know—the slutty-looking one) stomped past, in straw platforms and what had to be a two-inch skirt, with a horrible sneer across her face. What does she have to be mad about?
It was like Lourdes for urbanistas. A procession of pious black fashion junkies in stilettos and hip huggers had come to Sephora Thursday to pay homage to Iman, the patron saint of glamorous black women everywhere. Iman was re-launching her line of “edgy” makeup in conjunction with Trace‘s annual “Black Girls Rule” issue. And so the pedestrian shrine to 500 Eurotrash fragrances had become a pantheon of ebonic goddesses.
The Sephora salesboys—mugs painted like Italianate frescoes—stood guard over the velvet ropes partitioning off the skin-care department, and the stars. The bitches weren’t letting anybody near the models! “Get back!” snapped one, stretching his arched brows into talonic peaks as I tried to push my way past. My dream interview was going to be foiled by a couple of queens with an unhealthy pink-eyeshadow obsession!
Suddenly I was let in to the inner circle, where each video crew staked out a model, be it Jessica White or Valery Prince.
I waved a confused “hi” to Honey fashion director Michaela Angela Davis, who was serenely beaming in the chaos. Studio Museum head Thelma Golden discreetly slid by. Funky Black Angel Danny Chavis rushed over to hand me a gin-and-tonic, drawing the ire of model Oluchi when he spilled it on her arm. Party foul! Model turned human rights activist Waris Dirie looked comparatively underdressed in a robe, jeans, and sandals. “I’m ruling on my own!” she boasted, piercing me with onyx eyes. She’s working on a new book, Desert Dawn, named after her women’s advocacy group that is working to end female genital mutilation in Africa.
“Africans are dying,” said Dirie from the middle of the Shiseido aisle. “Until we all work together as black people all over the world, nothing will change.” I was exhilarated by her forthrightness, but I had to dip. A tall figure in red—a mass of video cameras turning in sync to catch it—was drifting by. Iman was in the house.
I can respect a woman who can talk to a notepad like it’s a camera. She struck a pose, then answered my questions. Fabulous. “Fashion magazines are so way behind the curve,” she said, referring to the hip-hop princesses and their stylists that now dictate the trends.
The fashion and beauty industries have been cruel to black folks. Outside of Fashion Fair and Flori Roberts, black women didn’t have many makeup options. A light-skinned drag friend of mine used to use Chanel foundation religiously—until she got a tan one summer and found they didn’t make it in a darker shade! Now there was Iman, legitimizing the ethnic market by doing high-end makeup for black women, and “Black Girls Rule,” an edition that the entire fashion world covets. Spritzing myself with one of the tester bottles, I proudly exited with my gift bag.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 21, 2002