The last time there was this much excitement over a fashion event it was for the late Karl Lagerfeld’s 2013 “Chanel Métiers d’Art” at Fair Park, which had the sartorial set licking their lusciously plumped lips over an extravaganza that included Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley, actress Lily Collins joy-riding a mechanical bull and shipped-in models and notables like Hamish Bowles trying their best at line-dancing.
Flash-forward nine years, and there was a fashionable zeal of delight when 2022 Crystal Charity Ball Chair Susan Farris and 2022 CCB Fashion Show Chair Jennifer Dix announced last April that Dolce & Gabbana would be the featured designer for this year’s Fashion Show at Neiman Marcus NorthPark on Thursday, September 8. It had been a three-year undertaking, since the original 2020 plan featuring D&G had to be scrubbed due to the pandemic.
But as with all relationships, there were fine points to be ironed out. Instead of a morning event and then a tea presentation later in the day to accommodate the crowds, D&G regretted that even a high tea was definitely not their cup of tea. Guests who had signed up for the tea were notified that, instead, it would be an “aperitivo.”
As the reservations flowed in non-stop, organizers juggled the traditional CCB presentations in keeping with the D&G way of doing things. There would be no need for escorts to accompany the Ten Best Dressed (Marybeth Conlon, Tiffany Divis, Monica Eastin, Libby Hegi, Kim Hext, Meredith Land, Karla McKinley, Anne McPherson, Amy Prestidge and Kim Quinn), Hall of Famer Pat McEvoy or Honorary Chair Gene Jones on the runway.
Like skilled diplomats trying to achieve peace between Ukraine and Russia, Susan and Jennifer maintained their cool as they walked the minefields of pop-up D&G “”suggerimenti”” over the months. One observer wondered aloud, “Don’t they [Dolce & Gabbana] realize the event is raising money for children?”
To some, the ever-changing recommendations were reminiscent of Van Halen’s rider requiring a bowl of M&M candies in their dressing room — with all the brown ones removed.
Finally, as the Italians closed up for their annual August vacation month, things seemed to be calming down. Gene would be allowed to be escorted by her husband, Jerry Jones Sr., and son Jerry Jones Jr. The Ten BD-ers and Pat would be presented sans escorts — and only their names would be read, unlike in years past when the 10 BD-ers would be announced with a description of their community activities and charitable contributions. D&G had scotched that element.
The night before the event, the D&G team dined at Carbone Dallas into the wee hours of the morning.
On the dawn of the big day, the NM NP third-floor designer department was buzzing with activity. Overnight it had been transformed from a showroom of designer clothes into an elegant pop-up runway surrounded by rows of tables that extended the length of the slightly elevated walkway. Overhead, there was enough lighting to test the durability of the Texas grid.
As an array of floral artisans arranged beautiful centerpieces for the tables, a legion of servers rehearsed how to serve the meals. Like a Broadway production, the servers rehearsed with the dexterity of seasoned performers.
Outside the showroom doors, a floor-to-ceiling wall had been erected to showcase D&G’s new line of plateware. It would be a favorite backdrop for selfies. On the other side of the escalator, another wall with D&G emblazoned along the way had been installed hiding the gift gallery.
Before the 10 BD-ers and Pat arrived for their walk-through, the models went through a dress rehearsal. While the D&G and NM teams smiled in approval, passersby looked on in amazement.
Backstage the ladies-in-waiting were in their various stages of preparation, with clothes being steamed to perfection and hair and make-up being polished.
However, even the 10 BD-er vets were not too keen about walking the slightly elevated runway without an escort. It was understandable. Most of these women had never walked a runway, let alone under blinding lights and surrounded by hundreds of guests.
But Pat, who had walked the runway three times in years past with an escort, took a stand that she needed an arm to lean on. A last-minute concession was made and a male model was hustled in.
As guests started arriving for the pre-show reception, the Ten BD-ers plus Pat, Jennifer and Susan donned personalized black robes provided by philanthropist Nancy C. Rogers and headed through the back hallways to the Zodiac Room, which had been transformed into a glamorous lounge with couches, mannequins in D&G fashions, shelves of champagne, paintings sprouting live flowers and a DJ for Nancy’s private reception. It honored the ladies of the day, plus luminaries like newly named NM President Ryan Ross and Market General Manager/VP Mary McGreevy Jennings, Nancy’s gal pals Kathleen Hutchison and Sabrina Harrison and D&G President/CEO North American Dan Rothmann, Brand Ambassador Gui Siqueira and Customer Relationship Management Specialist/Public Relations Sam Horowitz, the local fella who had risen to fame for his 2012 viral bar mitzvah resulting in appearances on “Ellen” and “Good Morning America.”
The receptions themselves became a showing of D&G. One very well-established fashionista decided to wear a D&G rose dress that she had bought three years before in Aspen. She wistfully wondered whether there would be more of the flowery designs on the runway destined for her wardrobe.
Another wore a recently purchased Majolica print that she had picked up in Florida, only to discover that D&G blue-and-white was the color of the day.
While the general and private receptions got underway, the showroom was in the final stages of preparation, with personalized menus serving as place cards orchestrated by 2022 CCB Registration Chair Lisa Rocchio. Little did Lisa know that despite the down-to-a-T assigned seating, some rule-breaking guests played the “switch the cards” game to suit their fancy.
A time-honored rule of thumb in producing such an event is to start chilling the room the night before. However, despite the room being filled to the max for both seatings, the decision was made to not crank up the A/C until just 90 minutes before the doors opened. Perhaps that’s why guests drafted their programs and personalized menu cards into use as hand fans.
When the doors opened at last for guests to take their places, the six-inch-high runway proved a bit of a challenge for those like Kristina Whitcomb with a leg cast and some AARP-ers with assigned seating across the way.
After Susan, Jennifer, Ryan, and Dan welcomed the guests, Dan revealed that NM NorthPark would be carrying D&G’s new line of dinnerware, called “Dolce & Gabbana CASA,” along with its new jewelry line, exclusively until November.
With Mary introducing the Ten Best Dressed and Pat, the parade went flawlessly, finishing up with Gene and the Jones gents receiving the only standing ovations of the day.
Finally, it was time for the D&G presentation to get underway, proving that the design house produced a remarkable collection with patent leather dresses with puffy and butterfly sleeves, new-wave hoodies, laced tops and body-clutching dresses and a damier-design faux fur coat with colors ranging from black on black to shiny and neon.
While there were plenty of cutouts highlighted by garter belts and bras, the only hint of elegant evening wear appeared at the end of the lineup — a long, tulle and faux fur dress, and the closers’ mesh dresses with rhinestones.
The cellphone salutes that had taken place for the Ten BD-ers, Pat and Gene were at ease during the D&G portion, with a scant few rising to the occasion.
As the parade of models disappeared at both presentations, polite applause ensued. The reviews became table fodder during the meals and the days afterward, with comments like, “So typical of D&G to be edgy;” “This was the wrong show for the wrong group;” “Daring and darling” and “It was definitely shock and awful.”
In all fairness, though, fashion is a form of art that is ever-evolving by pushing the envelope. Just as the ladies who shopped NM when it opened in 1907 would never have shown an ankle, so perhaps the D&G fashion presentation on this day was a hint of the future or just something to talk about in the days to come.
As the afternoon guests departed and the NM staffers returned the showroom to a sales floor, the D&G team closed up shop and headed back to Carbone for one last supper before jetting back to Italy to prepare for Kim Kardashian‘s “Ciao, Kim” at the Milan Fashion Week. And the ladies of CCB continued their mission to raise $7,180,505 for the 2022 beneficiaries (The Agape Clinic, Baylor Oral Health Foundation, Behind Every Door, Educational First Steps, Family Compass, Hope Supply Co., Southwestern Medical Foundation for the benefit of UT Southwestern Medical and United to Learn).