Dressing for the occasion is an increasingly rarified concept in New York. Between the minimalism, sportswear and athleisure trends that have captivated fashion for the last four years or so, people simply find it harder and harder to get dressed up and go out. This is especially true of the frequently photographed actresses, socialites other party circuit regulars who more often than not tend to play things safe on the red carpet.
Lucky for us, Naomi Watts provided a particularly compelling example of dressing for the occasion on Monday night. At the Cinema Society’s screening of her latest film, Demolition, Watts looked positively dreamy in a ruffled seafoam dress from Valentino Pre-Fall. We heard from Watts’ stylist Jeanann Williams, the former True Religion publicist who is now married to Watts’ brother, Ben Watts, that this was in the running as an option for January’s SAG Awards, and that she had to convince Watts to wear this instead of something more casual. We thought it was the perfect choice for a film screening in Chelsea followed by late-night cocktails at the Top of the Standard.
But the most stylish thing about Watts isn’t her penchant for Valentino—It’s her charismatic passion for her craft. “I liked that she was kind of drifting through life but she was able to wake up and make some big improvements and changes,” said Watts about her character. “I’ve had periods of my life where I’ve had to shake it up.”
Speaking of shaking things up, buff daddy David Barton was at it again on Tuesday night. The king of juiced-up muscles and mood-lit locker rooms opened TMPL (pronounced “temple”) on West 49th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, his latest place of worship for fitness’ most devout. Barton’s wife, Swiss miss and legendary party personality Susanne Bartsch, called in her troops of club kids for the banger.
Way downtown, I found a tribe of a different sort—the less photographed but equally as potent menswear community came together for a quieter, more classic affair. J. Hilburn, a door-to-door clothing business that is truly changing the way professional men shop for custom apparel, hosted an intimate dinner at Cafe Altro Paradiso in Soho. It might not have been the glamorous affair that Monday’s Cinema Society party was, or as raucous as the TMPL opening, but something about the evening resonated as especially sincere. It was a reminder of the kind of power New York’s fashion community can wield. In 2007, J. Hllburn was just an idea. Today, annual sales are somewhere north of $60 million, and that didn’t happen without the blessing of New York’s menswear editors. “As you know, our model is a little different,” said CEO Veeral Rathod. “So thank you to everyone here tonight, you have all been a part of our success.”
See? Fashion isn’t all back-stabbing and Devil Wears Prada. We felt that same sense of collegiality on Thursday night at a dinner at Omar’s La Ranita for KISUA, the African fashion label that partners with brands around the world to produce seasonal collections manufactured in Africa. Attendees included model Grace Mahary, singer Maxwell, and international street style star Nausheen Shah. Even half a world away, fashion brings people together.