Feb. 22. C’est moi , c’est moi , Phyllis Stine. In London for fashion week. Gray day. So gray. If I wanted so much gray, I could have stayed home and worn a Marc Jacobs cashmere sweater over my head. Duh!
Sorry I haven’t written lately. Dear Diary, man plans and God laughs: You won’t believe what has been happening.
Mr. Stine, from whom I am divorced, disappeared. Like he’s been kidnapped or gotten himself into a monastery or whatever. But as he never got around to removing me from his will, I am his executor and, as such, find myself having to run his billion-dollar entertainment business. Returned to New York Jan. 22 from Paris couture week and sold his publishing company to the highest bidder because, really, there was too much for me to deal with and go to the collections.
Arrived in London yesterday. Did I say it was a gray day? At the suggestion of trendy fashion friends am staying at One Aldwych hotel in London WC2B 4BZ–all the sections of London are attached to this massive alphabet rigamarole, I suppose, because everyone in London is so literary they can’t get enough of the language, which is called here the Queen’s English. Speaking of literary, first person I saw in the lobby was Bret Easton Ellis, the novelist, who is in town for the British publication of his novel, Glamorama . I’m in the book.
Massive jet lag attack this morning. Savage.
Dined last night with good pal Mr. Salt at a fish restaurant called J. Sheekey on the St. Martin’s Court. Could walk from hotel. Wore deep blue Comme des Garçons suit with Tuleh beaded top and Prada sport shoes as it was Sunday night. Mr. Salt says London gets his juices flowing. “London is the capital of Europe now,” he said. It’s certainly the most expensive, I responded, looking at the menu. The mixed grill and hothouse spinach cost us $200 and Mr. Salt only had one glass of wine. At next table was Bret Easton Ellis. Jonathan and Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, the publisher and advertising creative director, were in the middle of giving him a dinner party. Very smart group of about 16, or so, including the photographer Jergen Teller and fashion designer Bella Freud. Mr. Salt said we were really up there now.
Feb. 22. Teatime. Back in hotel having attended runway show to launch Burberry’s new high-end label called Burberry Prorsum, which Burberry translates roughly as “future.” Like I said, London is very literary. Collection was just fine, especially the newly muted trademark Burberry tartan. Even though I’ve only been here 24 hours, I can report that that tartan is a metaphor for the new Great Britain: old England melding into the new. A boom with a view.
Attended fashion show of Helen David English Eccentrics as I am quite taken by English eccentrics such as the Two Fat Ladies and the late British poet Stevie Smith: “Nourish me on egg, Nanny/ And ply me with bottled stout/ And I’ll grow to be a man/ Before the secret’s out”–but found nothing eccentric here.
Wonder what the Queen is doing tonight?
Feb. 23. Went to a marvelous party last night at Christie’s London for a preview of the Unforgettable: Fashion of the Oscars exhibit to take place in New York on March 18 to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Other hosts were Christie’s chairman Lord Hindlip–I’m rubbing elbows with lordships, dear Diary–London art patroness Janet de Botton, actress Natasha Richardson and Anna Wintour. Vogue has underwritten the charity auction. Names heavily dropped concerning who was there: Tom Ford of Gucci, John Galliano of Christian Dior, Tommy Hilfiger–who was in town to open his new London shop–Gianfranco Ferre, Denise Hale, Elizabeth Hurley and Hugh Grant, Charles and Kay Saatchi, Hamish Bowles, Stella McCartney, Michael Roberts, Naomi Campbell, Miranda Brooks, Simon Doonan, Andre Leon Talley, Isabella and Detmar Blow–she wears the amusing Philip Treacy hats and he is the lawyer who also owns the trendy Modern Art, Inc. gallery, in London E2 7DJ–Lady Helen Windsor, and Bill Blass and Carolyne Roehm who are staying at the Connaught while they shop for furnishings for Carolyne, whose house in Connecticut burnt down a few weeks ago.
Anna Wintour was concerned that the rainbow effects of my multicolor silk-satin ribbon jacket and skirt with matching flotilla hat by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy would clash with the crimson damask in the Great Room at Spencer House, but she asked me to the after-party dinner there, anyway. Actually, if the invitation had come a little earlier I might have worn something else, but nevermind.
Rubbing elbows in London with real English lords and glossy magazine editors. Lord Jacob Rothschild, who several years ago restored the house which had once been home of the ancestors of Diana, the Princess of Wales, made Spencer House available for the evening and I went right up to him and had a long chat. He said my accent “was enchanting.” I explained it was purely New Jersey assisted by a few dramatics classes at college–or university, as they say here. The British are fascinated by accents.
At dinner, standing beside her seat at a long table in the crimson great room, Natasha Richardson made a speech I found quite moving. “It’s so fitting that we are here,” she said, “because I got the idea for the sale of Oscar dresses from Diana selling her frocks for charity. It seemed a great way to deal with leftovers.” Natasha raised her glass to Diana. As her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and sister Joely Richardson and half-sister, Kathy Grimond, looked on, she explained why she worked so tirelessly for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. “My father died of AIDS, and we vowed that we would do whatever we can to make sure no one would ever have to die that way.”
After dinner, went looking for free-standing British lords. Met Manolo Blahnik in Spencer House’s fantastic Palm Room, all gilded palm trees and gilded palm furniture.
“Thank you for your patronage,” he said.
Duly noted: I swooned. Manolo Blahnik is my idolmaker!
Did I like England? he asked. I said I liked tonight, but as far as I could tell boom-boom England was getting to be New York. Strangers not particularly friendly anymore. Everyone in a rush.
“I don’t think London has been the same since Diana died,” he said. “She was the soul of England.”
Literary me: Germaine Greer virtually said the same thing in an excerpt from her new book, The Whole Woman , published in The Daily Telegraph today.
Feb. 25. Yesterday a blur due to late night and jet lag. Leaving town tomorrow for New York. Obviously, leaping off without lords, just dresses. Hail to Alexander McQueen, the only reason to come to London during fashion week, although also liked Bella Freud presentation of a six-minute movie, directed by John Malkovich. And Matthew Williamson’s show, very rich, hippie-style, which comes in handy sometimes.
Alexander McQueen’s show happened in a truck depot inside of which was huge Lucite box done up like a snow dome. Next season he will show his collection in New York. Models walked the periphery while skaters skated inside the rink. Loved the wintery collection. Very Anna Karenina meets Björk.
“I knew someone would,” Alexander said when he heard I ordered the stainless steel lacy skirt.
Billy’s List: Quiz time!
1. According to various insiders, who will make model Stella Tennant’s dress when she marries David Lasnet this May in England?
a. Oscar de la Renta.
b. Helmut Lang.
c. Vera Wang.
2. Of the following, which was named “Best Retail Project of the Year” in a recent issue of Interiors magazine?
a. Len Morgan’s Cove Landing in Lyme, Conn.
b. The Cross at 141 Portland Road in London.
c. Sephora on Broadway.
3. Women’s Wear Daily recently reported Ralph Lauren will branch out beyond its own brand and buy which of the following?
b. Club Monaco.
c. Country Road.
Answers: (1) b; (2) a; (3) b.
Follow William Norwich via RSS.