Kristian Laliberte: New York’s Rachel Zoe?
“I want to be New York’s answer to Rachel Zoe,” said stylist Kristian Laliberte, referring to the Los Angeles–based queen bee of celebrity stylists. Mr. Laliberte, 23, was chewing over his career ambitions, along with a steak frites, after a busy Saturday spent pulling outfits for clients at several showrooms around town. He was due at the Sue Stemp show at the Soho Grand in 40 minutes.
“Yeah, Nicole Richie did fire her and called her a bitch,” he said of Ms. Zoe, a walking advertisement for the much-maligned skinny look, “but you know she worked her way up to that. She’s one of my idols.”
In his mind, this seemed to be the answer to a riddle he’d been trying to solve since the Yigal Azrouël —show the day before: Am I a professional or a socialite? Can I be both?
Mr. Laliberte and his pretty, petite partner Bridget Helene have styled One Tree Hill’s Sophia Bush, Veronica Mars star Kristin Bell and, most recently, the Duchess of York. Since May, he’s also racked up 80 appearances on patrickmcmullan.com. “It’s hard, because going out and being photographed can overshadow, and in the case of certain people, it has hurt their career,” he said. “But I think that it’s good to network. Once you find a career you need to advance in, you tone that down.”
Mr. Laliberte was wearing too-tight John Varvatos jeans (a gift from All American Rejects front man Tyson Ritter), a deeply V-necked gray Prada sweater, a button-down shirt (some of his rust-tinged face powder had smudged onto the collar), a red vintage skinny tie and—apparently—a number of hats. This week, he and Ms. Helene have been shepherding a 16-year-old client, All My Children star Leven Rambin, to various shows, in various outfits of their choosing. They also assisted with the publicity, seating and so-called celebrity-wrangling at the Yigal show on Feb. 2; Mr. Laliberte, though he said he plans to style indefinitely, is currently interviewing for various fashion P.R. positions. He has also been writing fashion blogs for out.com and a new models-only social network, modelshotel.com.
But the Internet hasn’t been entirely welcoming to Mr. Laliberte. “Bridget Helene and Kristian Laliberte look like two little clowns running around New York,” read a post attributed to someone named “Posh” in the comments section of Socialiterank.com. “There is nothing special about them and they always look like they are trying too hard.” Added another commenter, “Snapoo”: “Kristian Laliberte is a social climbing loser. Bridget is too. Sorry. Disgusting!”
“It’s like: What? Like, who are these people? Do people really go home at night and write this shit?” Mr. Laliberte fumed. “One night I was so fed up, I wrote in and was like: ‘You guys don’t know who I am.’ I was like: ‘Um, I work my ass off. I’ve never made any pretensions of wanting to be a socialite, nor have I ever claimed that I was one, so I don’t know why you’re saying I’m a wannabe, because I’m pretty comfortable doing what I’m doing. And all I want to be is, I want to find the career I want to do, and I’ve been working towards that goal.’”
For the record, the Yigal show went off without a hitch, and everyone was very pleased with Mr. Laliberte’s wrangling, which brought in such coveted gadabouts as Fabiola Beracasa, Olivia Palermo and Annelise Peterson. “The front row was a socialite’s wet dream,” Mr. Laliberte exulted.
“This was one of his first shows, and he obviously did a great job,” said the socialite Derek Blasberg of Mr. Laliberte. “There were a lot of great people here. He’s got some pull.”
Mr. Laliberte isn’t exactly a Horatio Alger story. He grew up on Nahant, an exclusive little island off Massachusetts. His father is the famous contemporary painter Norman Laliberte. His mother, Laurel, is a designer and a philanthropist. The yard in front of their 14,000-square-foot house was landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted. Mr. Laliberte said he never had to hide his sexuality from his parents growing up, and he remained out while attending Milton Prep and Columbia, where he graduated in 2005 with a degree in European history.
In December of that year, he and a female friend were walking out of a gay bar in Lynn, Mass., when a man yelled “Faggot!”, threw Mr. Laliberte against a car and beat him unconscious. He spent a month in the hospital and had seven operations to restore sight to his eye. “At first I was petrified to leave the house, and then the panic attacks started in three months after,” he recalled. “But it gave me a huge perspective and also that much more drive.”
The incident also made Mr. Laliberte realize that he’d “always been hiding a little bit and never really confronted my homosexuality. And in the end, it made me give less of a shit about whatever other people felt about me in whatever capacity …. You realize who your real friends are—and what you need in life to make you feel good.”
Clothes are one of the main things that make Mr. Laliberte feel good. He spent most of last year working as a buyer, stylist, publicist and creative director of Caravan, a high-end boutique in Nolita. “Basically, my boss, Claudine Gumbel, couldn’t deal with the fact that me and Bridget would go out every night and network and like promote the brand,” he said. “She would send us pictures off Patrick McMullan and be like, ‘What were you doing?’” He said Ms. Gumbel made him cry nearly every day. He resigned in December.
“You know you have other people working here too, and Kristian has a bite about him sometimes, so maybe I made him cry, but he definitely made other people feel shitty too,” Ms. Gumbel said on the phone. “My frustration was that he’s going out so much that he can’t come to work on time. Kristian had days where he worked very hard, and then he had days where he didn’t show up when we really needed him.
“I think he needs to figure out if he wants to be famous or do a good job for someone else,” she added, “or bring those two interests together.”
On Monday, Feb. 5, Mr. Laliberte was synthesizing his interests quite deftly. He and Ms. Helene had hired a car to squire around Ms. Rambin, and the trio went to five shows, each of which required a wardrobe change.
Sitting front-row at Luca Luca, the blond, broad-shouldered, leggy Ms. Rambin said the day had been a great success thus far. She loved the outfit Mr. Laliberte had picked out for her, a gold-python trench over a mocha dress. “It’s something I would have picked out myself,” she said.
“We got swarmed by like 40 paparazzi outside,” boasted Mr. Laliberte, who was wearing Prada shoes with tassels, another pair of too-tight jeans, a button-down shirt, a blazer, and a vintage camel-hair overcoat with a coyote-fur tippet. “Did she tell you she made WWD on Friday?”
Mr. Laliberte might have his detractors, but Ms. Rambin, for one, proclaimed herself delighted with his services. “Kristian is an amazing, creative, inspired, crazy, insane, psychopathic, fun-loving, beautiful, dedicated, loyal, proud person,” she said. “He’s a publicist, he’s a friend, he’s a stylist, he’s your dad, he’s your brother …. He’s like everything in one.”
“Calvin wa s no longer a fit for me,” said Annelise Peterson in spotless professional-speak, after the Yigal Azrouël show at Bumble and Bumble on Feb. 2. She recently quit her job as head of communications at Calvin Klein, citing “family consequences.” Now she is working on “special projects,” that catchphrase of the new millennium.
“I want to be creative,” said the towering blonde, by which she did not mean experimenting with different shades of eyeliner. And by “special projects,” she was not talking about challenging Rachel Roy and Tinsley Mortimer’s reign atop socialiterank.com. (Ms. Peterson currently occupies the 14th position, nestled snugly between dueling celebrity daughters Bee Shaffer and Victoria Traina.)
“I’m about having a career and using my mental and creative capacity, not running around at parties,” Ms. Peterson further told The Transom, adding that she had majored in economics at Columbia. “I don’t really have a dream job, so long as I feel like I’m using my mind and feel creatively fulfilled,” she said.
She was wearing a Yigal dress and a vintage fur. “I’m just going to three or four shows. It’s really great to see what young designers are doing. It’s great to see outside the Calvin box, and that’s why I enjoy the shows. Last year, I didn’t even go to any shows, I was so busy.
“I will always work in fashion,” Ms. Peterson said. “But what I do within it is ‘mum’s the word.’”
Into His Cups
The legendary Malaysian-Chinese designer Zang Toi took a break from fitting his models in sexy samurai-style garments on Feb. 3 to discuss his second passion: Chinese porcelain.
“Yeah, I really do love china,” Mr. Toi said. “I recently had all this beautiful handmade china by Harrods, all this china made for me in white and platinum to go with my apartment.” He was sitting behind an enormous desk in his showroom on West 57th Street, gazing at the March issue of Elle Decor, which was flipped open to a spread featuring his new place on the Upper East Side.
“It’s beautiful,” he continued, of the china. “Has lots of the cherubic, like the rosebuds and roses. But the traditional way they sell it is with multiple colors, so I had mine just white with a little bit of these platinum leaves. So it’s very clean, but it’s very opulent—but it’s very minimal at the same time.”
Mr. Toi is animated and rosy-cheeked, with shoulder-length black hair, an all-black wardrobe and a lazy left eye. He is a motor mouth to begin with, but the subject of his 23-year obsession with china brings the cadence of his speech up to lightning speed. “I started at the flea market at Sixth Avenue,” he said. “Nobody would go to the flea market, but I would religiously go to the flea market every Sunday for so many years, until all the fashion people go and I stopped going.”
Relationships were strained. “I remember I saw this set of white and gold Limoges that I was collecting that was being sold somewhere in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Toi said. “My poor ex-boyfriend, I made him rent a car, we drove in the thunderstorm on a Sunday. He must’ve drove six hours to get me there to buy my china. Meanwhile, I was sleeping the whole time in the car,” he added with a giggle.
Move over, Limoges: What Mr. Toi really wanted to discuss was his new set from Harrods. “I bought everything in six,” he said. “I have cute big terrine and two smaller ones. And two big square rectangular platters, and then a beautiful square cake plate with handles. I like things that are special, and that one, I use it as a salad plate. And a round one with handle that’s my dinner plate. And I have a beautiful—they call it a biscuit jar, it’s a beautiful bowl with a cover and three legs, and I’m using it as my soup bowl or my noodle-soup bowl.”
At the Vionnet relaunch at Barneys on Friday, Feb. 2, jewelry-designer-cum-Wes-Anderson-muse Waris Ahluwalia was going through a sort of decompression period. He had just returned from spending more than a month on a train in India shooting Mr. Anderson’s new film, The Darjeeling Limited.
“Food was always the main topic,” he said. The majority of the film takes place on a train. Mr. Ahluwalia plays the conductor. “Everyone was always like, ‘What are you going to eat? What are you going to eat? What’s for lunch? What’s for dinner? I don’t want to eat dal. I don’t want to eat dal! I’ve been eating dal for four weeks!’ It was always an issue. We hired a new chef; I tried to make him make plain vegetables.” He shook his trademark black turban gravely.
There were emergency shipments of food: crackers, biscuits, cookies, chocolate. One night, Mr. Ahluwalia’s girlfriend, Chiara Clemente, cooked pasta for the crew.
”Another source aboard the Darjeeling line mentioned a factor likely compounding the mass stomach ailment: the opium treats munched by much of the cast and crew on weekends. “They were in these bars, mixed with sugar to make it taste sweeter,” this person said. “It’s kind of like pot, really mellow.”
But, the source agreed, “the food was really awful. The worst catered Indian food no one wanted to eat.”
At the Luca Luca show on Feb. 5, The Transom caught up with one of Fashion Week’s greatest mysteries, Patrick McDonald. You know, the guy with the eyebrows?
Mr. McDonald, 49, was bravely dressed all in fall 2006 Yves Saint Laurent. “I’ve got a purple mohair coat, a purple knit sweater, mustard-yellow corduroy pants and purple shoes,” he said.
“Oh, God, I’ve been doing a lot of things,” he said. “I just interviewed Michael Vollbracht from Bill Blass for Mao Mag. I’m working on a project with my friend Nancy Bacich; it’s called Eve Kitten. She’s Gotham’s lingerie superhero.”
A friend recently started a MySpace page to keep track of all the press that Mr. McDonald gets for, among other things, wearing funny hats. “I do go on it here and there,” he said, adding that he personally catalogs all his Bill Cunningham clippings from The New York Times, “because I just adore Bill.”
Mr. McDonald lives in a shoe, doesn’t he?
“I live in a shoe,” he said, nodding. “I live in a closet. But I love my crazy closet, with my 350 hats and my 300 pairs of shoes—I love it.”
Mr. McDonald’s been part of the Fashion Week circus for over two decades. So is anything different this year? “My hair’s a little longer,” he said. “And I’ve decided to extend my eyebrows further. It’s my trademark, so as Stephen Knoll, the hairdresser, says to me, ‘We’re connecting the dots.’ Soon they’re going to go into my hairline, connect down my sideburn and into my beauty mark, so it’s going to be connect the dots. You know—why not?”
Early last week, a nude photo of Mischa Barton’s boyfriend, Cisco Adler, front man of Whitestarr, swiftly made the rounds on the Web. It was notable for Mr. Adler’s pirate-like leer and the rather elephantine aspect of his, er, family jewels.
“Ballgate,” Mr. Adler called it, reached by phone at his Malibu residence. “Everyone’s been really supportive.” He laughed a little. “No, I mean—shit, I think it’s pretty rock ’n’ roll. You know, if it was like yesterday I would’ve freaked out, but then I looked at the picture and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s from like 2001. Whatever.’”
How’d it happen?
“Paris’ shit got stolen, and somehow she had a picture of me naked in there,” he said with a sly snigger. “That’s Paris Hilton to you!”
The photograph would have hardly caused a blip were it not for the aspiring rock star’s extraordinary genitalia. But Mr. Adler didn’t care to discuss this topic other than to say: “I just went to Chicago, and I felt like every older woman at the airport had seen my balls—which was weird.”
He continued: “I’m a naked dude! I don’t give a fuck.”
But Mischa? What about her feelings?
“Mischa wasn’t too excited, to say the least,” said Mr. Adler, who has a “rock ’n’ roll reality show” premiering July 5. “I think it was actually worse for her than for me in some ways. So yeah, I’m gonna try to keep my pants on from now on.”