“The clothing’s just the sprinkles on top.” So said tattoo artist Ami James, and it could have been the motto for the evening, especially when the chocolate-sprinkled cupcakes appeared later on, one last treat for a collection of self-proclaimed oddballs, from Michael Stipe to Bono’s wife, Irish business woman Ali Hewson, to a late entry looking like the boy next door, Josh Hartnett.
They were gathered last night for the launch of the “Eccentrics Issue” of Vs. Magazine, which coincided with the official opening—or, anyway, the celebrity opening—of Paul Gerard’s Exchange Alley, the two events hosted by brunette beauties Liv Tyler, whose face in close-up stares from the cover of the new Vs., and Helena Christensen, who took the photo.
Mid-Fashion Week, and celebrating a high-end fashion magazine for the fashion-forward and runway-ready, the event was still somehow an escape from the frenzy, a respite. Yes, fashionistas and models mingled with artists, designers and rock stars, but the party was low key compared with the Marc Jacobs soirée on the same night. The atmosphere at Exchange Alley, a restaurant that already feels local and loved, was one of nonchalant chic. The décor chimed with the night’s theme, black-and-white Hollywood studio shots matching the grayscale (splashed with pink) magazine cover. Mr. Gerard’s cooking, myriad different dishes with an Ottolenghi palette, also fit. The chef confessed to a Jack Kerouac fetish and modestly described himself as a potential eccentric, “more than your average Joe.”
Pity the poor eccentric. Quirkiness advertised runs the risk of cancelling itself out—after all, what could be more commonplace than clamoring for attention? To catch a glimpse of naked oddity one had to peek from unexpected angles, the only way to register, for instance, the tattoo of a cat on the ankle of Cobra Starship’s Gabe Sapporta. Mr. Sapporta, appropriately enough, was engrossed in conversation with Ami James, arguing that to be eccentric meant “never having to think about what it means,” never having to reduce it to a “label.”
Ms. Hewson said she knew “a lot of eccentric people who look totally normal,” and that it was “harder to find a normal person than an eccentric person.”
In this crowd, certainly, a cast of characters chosen not for fame but for quirks. There was a lot of Gaga talk; think eccentric, think Lady Gaga? Not quite. The point of the issue was not staged eccentricity but rather eccentricity as badge of dedication and passion. Mitchell Feinberg—Bronx-born still-life photographer and favorite eccentric of both Jakob F. S., editor-in chief and creative director of Vs., and Vibe Dabelsteen, the magazine’s fashion director—said, “the best eccentrics are those not extravagantly but thoughtfully so.”
Mr. Feinberg’s two photo shoots for Vs. saw conceptual art deal with the disposable: In one he plastered perfume bottles with powder, in the other he drilled a Patek Phillipe with a bullet fired from a .22 caliber rifle. He said that to be eccentric meant “to look at the world in a different way to everyone else.” According to Ms. Dabelsteen, Mr. Feinberg’s way of looking involves “caring about the finest details—that’s what makes him eccentric. Eccentricity and perfection are very close.”
If there was a queen of quirk, it was Colette. This multimedia artist, pioneer of the living art performance, pre-Cindy Sherman, describes herself as a “true New York eccentric”—the fact that she was born in Tunisia and grew up in the South of France sealed the deal. She had no compunction about wearing her weirdness on her sleeve—or rather her head. Her oversized black-and-white hat matched the décor and threatened to dominate it.
And the eccentrics’ most admired eccentrics? A tricky decision; in the worlds of art and fashion, choices are limitless. There was a vote for Salvador Dalí, for Andy Warhol, for Christopher Hitchens, for Diane Pernet, and—Ms. Christensen’s favorite—a “walking piece of art,” the recently deceased Anna Piaggi. Mr. Sapporta chose his girlfriend Erin Fetherston, “because in her spare time she’s a unicorn.”