Two photos posted on Instagram during the 48 hours leading up to Neiman Marcus and NorthPark Center’s Fifty Years of Style gala really got the town talking about the much-anticipated event. It was the crowning celebration of NorthPark Center’s 50th anniversary and its 50 Days of Giving campaign, hosted by NorthPark proprietors Nancy Nasher and David Haemisegger and NM group president and CEO Karen Katz and her husband, Alan Katz, all to benefit the Nasher Sculpture Center Youth Arts Education programs.
The first image, posted by Neiman Marcus PR maven Apryl Churchill, showed an empty third floor at NM’s NorthPark Center location. Neither a rolling rack nor piece of clothing was in sight. Where were the designers’ wares stored? The mystery remains. Perhaps Neiman Marcus has a very large spare closet somewhere. The second snapshot came by way of Ken Downing and depicted a board of gridded Polaroids of 50 models in 50 different looks. Was this fashion week? Not quite. But it would soon appear that way.
Last night, those cryptic social-media snaps made perfect sense. After cocktail hour in the Shoe Salon, hundreds of the city’s finest rode the escalator to the Couture Salon, which had indeed been cleared of its typical fixtures and set for dinner, with long dining tables and a plum-hued carpet that wrapped around the massive room. That carpet served as the runway for mastermind Downing’s major moment: a fashion show, naturally, which lasted close to 45 minutes, with 50 different models in 50 out-of-this-world fabulous looks. (It took each model close to 60 seconds to make the full catwalk circle from start to finish.)
Downing, a senior vice president and the fashion director for NM, is famous for advocating a certain rule: More is more, and less is a bore. Indeed, this was his time to shine. Look after look hit the runway, offering a blatant, brilliant lesson in extravagant layering. Fur ensembles of all kind were everywhere; avant-garde headpieces and jewelry were molded just for the show by L.A. designer Devon Leigh in precious metals and stones; a bare-breasted gent was seductive in a tuxedo jacket and fur-lined slippers; a headscarf-wearing female model appeared aloof in a style that was quintessentially Grey Gardens; and the crowning jewel, perhaps a nod to the upcoming holidays, was the final look: a regal, green gown from Roberto Cavalli, accessorized with a matching emerald-fur stole and a jeweled red clutch.
The fashionable frenzy backstage? One can only imagine the scene, as hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces — clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry and accessories — were employed in Downing’s remarkable presentation.
An exuberant bravo is in order for Neiman Marcus, NorthPark Center and the hundreds of hands it took to make last night happen. It was a party quite unlike any other: memorable, fashionable and a standard-setter for the next 50 years to come.