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New York Fashion Week: Let the parties begin

September 6, 2008 |  5:15 pm

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Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week wasn’t even officially kicking off until the next morning, but Thursday night was a Manhattan meet-and-greet marathon of competing parties that required the fashion flock to employ nearly Olympian-level stamina in order to hit all the hot events.

Our first stop was at 6:15 p.m.

When the doors opened onto the men’s designer collections floor at Barneys New York, it was clear the evening would be anything but normal. Milling around the basket of a vintage hot air balloon were a crowd of well-dressed folk, including Barneys creative director Simon Doonan and rapper/actor Andre Benjamin, nattily attired in a battered straw hat, red rugby shirt and dark denim trousers held up by braces (braces are suspenders held on by buttons instead of clips, btw). 

It was a launch party for Benjamin’s first clothing line — the updated retro rugbyesque Benjamin Bixby — which is exclusive to Barneys New York and hit shelves there just days before.

"It’s much harder to make clothes than to make music," Benjamin told the Rage in between posing for photos and greeting well-wishers. "With music, if you don’t like the way something sounds you can just do it over and over again in the studio until you do. With clothes, you don’t have that luxury. You don't have a chance until the next season."

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Oh, and the gondola? That’s a reference to the label’s logo — a hot air balloon.
By 7:00 p.m. we were hoofing it downtown to Christie’s at Rockefeller Plaza for a preview party for bicoastal vintage boutique Resurrection’s upcoming auction of avant-garde fashion. While DJ Paul Sevigny (that’s Chloe’s bro) spun tunes, guests sipped Champagne and circulated among the mind-bending Muglers (Thierry that is).

Von_loren_6 We had a chance to chat with Agyness Deyn, who turned out in a polka dot dress designed by Henry Holland, who also accompanied her to the fete in a flower-print suit of his own making. Deyn told us that she’d recently gotten back from vacation in St. Martins with her rocker boyfriend Albert Hammond of the Strokes.

"I literally forgot how to model,” she said with a chuckle. "I just couldn’t remember how it was done."

Without the chance to think how funny that was, we ducked out on Deyn and company at 7:45 to head to model Erin Wasson’s party to celebrate her new collection with surf and skate brand RVCA. It was a fifth-floor walk-up, but the real action was on the roof, which had AstroTurf on the ground, making the whole thing feel like a backyard bash, if it weren’t for the Brooklyn Bridge hanging nearby. Wasson brought a piece of her native Texas to the event — a taco stand with a red and white plastic awning. The place was packed, with the sweet smell of marijuana wafting through the air, but we managed to spot John Whitledge of Trovata, who stopped in after his show to support his friend. Even the firefighters who came to rescue people from the stalled elevator ended up staying and dancing with Wasson.

The last stop was the Gramercy Park Hotel for a Bravo bash in honor of celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and her new reality show “The Rachel Zoe Project” –- at which the guest of honor was conspicuously absent. But present and accounted for was “Project Runway” winner Christian Siriano, toting a bag half as tall as he was, and two couches festooned with Bravo throw pillows (Did they come from the company store, we wondered).

At 9 p.m., with no sign of Zoe, we decided to call it a night and get rested up for an early morning at the tents. As we got in the elevator, we remarked about the missing Zoe.

“Oh, she’s here,” said a PR flack. “She got here about 20 minutes ago. She’s just over on the red carpet.”

We couldn’t have asked for a better end to the night.

—Adam Tschorn and Booth Moore

Photos, top to bottom: Andre Benjamin chats with reporters and well-wishers; antique-looking hot air balloon basket filled with mannequins wearing Benjamin's new line (photos by Jennifer Altman for The Times); Ellen von Unwerth and Agyness Deyn at Christie's "Resurrection: Avant Garde Fashion & Contemporary Art" (photo by Lorenzo Santini, Wireimage.com)

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