A Tale of Two Parties: T And WSJ.’s Rival Relaunches

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 5.48.46 PMWith Fashion Week in full swing last week, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal waged rival relaunch parties in their ongoing war for high-dollar luxury advertisers, seemingly far from the front-line trenches of hard news.

T: The New York Times Style Magazine celebrated its redone glossy at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar. The classic New York haunt evoked days gone by, when publishing and advertising types rarely ventured below 14th Street (unless they were visiting their libertine beatnik mistresses). Befitting the location, there were the inevitable oysters, martini shakers and flutes of champagne. Cigarette girls purveyed magazines, cookies emblazoned with the new T logo and gift cards for a one-month subscription to the paper of record. (Hey, this is Bloomberg’s New York now.) TVs around the bar area played Sofia Coppola’s interview with cover girl Lee Radziwill. Ms. Coppola was in attendance, as were Drew Barrymore and media heavies like Arianna Huffington and Chris Hughes (fresh from his own relaunch party), along with the Times’s top brass.

“What Deborah has done is, all in one go, she’s got a complete editorial and design vision from the logo to the cover,” Times CEO Mark Thompson said of new T editor Deborah Needleman. “One of the reasons that so many people are here tonight is that people are responding to her vision of T.”

Ms. Needleman, clad in black pants, a black silk shirt and a dark blazer, held court under the Oyster Bar’s vaulted ceiling. She, of course, crossed enemy lines last fall to come to the Times from WSJ., where she was the editor in chief until she replaced Sally Singer at T.

“Both places are really great. I know that’s a really boring answer, but it’s true,” Ms. Needleman told Off the Record. “I’m very happy where I am, and it feels really comfortable and very right.”

Even the cover story, a profile of Ms. Radziwill, Jackie O’s 79-year-old younger sister, had crossed over. Women’s Wear Daily reported that Ms. Needleman had brought the feature along with her to T, but she played down the significance of this when she spoke to OTR.

“When I left, Lee pulled the story and asked if I could do it at T, and I said, yes please,” Ms. Needleman said. “It wasn’t like I had to drag her by her chignon out of there.”

The WSJ. party, located at Wallsé—the West Village haute-Austrian joint—had a distinctly younger vibe. Not at all like a scene out of Mad Men, it was full of fashionable young party people who crowded the small, dimly lit rooms, jostling for drinks at the bar and grabbing dainty canapés and petits fours.

The distance between the two parties made it challenging to hit both, but some enterprising all-stars trekked from East 42nd Street to West 11th. Prabal Gurung, Hannah Bronfman and Emanuele Della Valle managed to make the rounds, as did Off the Record—so we weren’t the only ones hiding our copies of T upon arriving at the rival event, where we received a copy of WSJ. (no free digital access included) in its signature gray envelope.

New editor Kristina O’Neill, her blonde hair wavy and loose, wore a white lace dress and animatedly greeted her guests. “I’m really excited to put my stamp on the magazine,” said Ms. O’Neill, who arrived at WSJ. from Harper’s Bazaar, where she had been the executive editor.