“For me, a legend is someone I look up to and I respect and admire, and I guess I’m not there yet for myself,” said designer Marc Jacobs humbly on Thursday, Oct. 29, at the Pratt Institute Legends award benefit, where he was one of the evening’s honorees.
“Just because they give me this prize doesn’t mean I am one,” added Mr. Jacobs, who wore black leather boots with white socks, a red tartan kilt, a white dress shirt open at the collar and a black sport jacket with roped shoulders.
“I mean, to me, Patti Smith is a legend,” Mr. Jacobs said, referring to his fellow honoree, the punk rock icon. For her part, Ms. Smith didn’t deny the title. “One keeps trying to continually validate people’s faith in them, so you just keep doing your work,” she said.
In the late ’60s, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Ms. Smith’s boyfriend at the time, was a student at the Brooklyn art school. “When I was quite young, I used to dream about going to Pratt, but I didn’t have the finances,” Ms. Smith said, adding that she was “too erratic a student” to be a scholarship candidate. She wore a white shirt with long cuffs and a dark blazer over faded jeans and black boots.
The third honoree, architect and designer David Rockwell, recalled the first time he wore Mr. Jacobs’ clothing and heard Ms. Smith at CBGB. “I never would have guessed that we would have been destined to form this incredibly unlikely trio,” Mr. Rockwell said.
The gala was held on the unfinished 49th floor of 7 World Trade Center, to which attendees were conveyed via ear-popping express elevator. The only hiccup came during dinner, when a Pratt trustee collapsed—reportedly drinking against doctor’s orders—and was wheeled out on a stretcher, conscious and grinning sheepishly.
Later Ms. Smith and her longtime collaborator, Lenny Kaye, performed for the several hundred attendees. The set included her 1978 hit “Because the Night,” which she encouraged partygoers to sing with her.
One audience member glimpsed the Godmother of Punk emerging from one of the ladies’ room stalls “zipping up,” and was momentarily struck dumb. “She’s a little scary,” said the guest. But Ms. Smith put her at ease. “She said, ‘You look beautiful tonight.’ She’s such a kind person!”