c.2014 New York Times News Service
c.2014 New York Times News Service
NEW YORK — With the alighting of fashion’s air-smooching society, this week’s tempest of runway shows, private dinners and after-parties offers endless opportunities for gate crashers seeking social validation and free vodka. But prospective infiltrators beware: the sentinels of such entry points have added new weapons to their defensive arsenal.
For those who weasel past doormen with a lock-pick set of impersonations, name drops and “Don’t you peons know who I am?” tantrums, digital advances make intrusion trickier.
Cloud-based velvet ropes like Zkipster have joined Fashion GPS, Splash and other services that allow tablet-toting event organizers, party promoters, wedding planners and maître d’s to weed out interlopers.
This week, zFace, an add-on to the Zkipster guest-list app that links digital photos of invitees, will be wielded at Fashion Week events for Armani, Maison Martin Margiela and Moncler. The system uses Microsoft Bing to source online images to accompany names, and the host selects the most accurate (and, one hopes, flattering) photograph.
The concept isn’t novel. Publicists often print out a yearbook-like tip sheet of notable faces for photographers on party duty. But this is faster, paperless and includes every guest, not just the celebrities, socialites and waifish Slovakian models.
“I don’t think we can kill gate-crashing 100 percent,” said David Becker, a founder of Zkipster. “We just made a tool to make it much harder in the future.”
Still, he professed no animosity toward the uninvited.
“If people are still smart enough to crash the gate with faces on the list, they should go for it,” he said. “I think it’s a beautiful sport.”
ZFace was introduced in December during Art Basel Miami Beach in Florida. At a Dom Pérignon party, a pileup of gallery kingpins, billionaire scions and wannabes mobbed multiple checkpoints in hopes of entering the rarefied slosh. Some failed miserably.
“A 20-something girl came up to me claiming she was Marina Abramovic,” said Laura Ledesma, a publicist with Nadine Johnson and Associates, referring to the performance artist born in 1946. Nadine Johnson does public relations for Zkipster. “I showed her the photo on the iPad and said, ‘Are you crazy? Get out of here,’” Ledesma said.
In recent years, tablet-equipped doormen have become increasingly prevalent, as have services aimed at smoothing the snarls of event management. Fashion GPS, a Web-based platform that handles invitations and real-time guest lists, will be used during the Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios. Seven Rooms, an online reservation system whose name references Graydon Carter’s fabled speech about there being varied antechambers of exclusivity, has been used at nightclubs like Lavo and Marquee.
And Amy Sacco, the night life impresario tied to Bungalow 8 and No. 8, has utilized her own private in-house platform that also includes photos.
Besides easing logistics and adding another level of security, guest-list apps allow senior employees to foist the unsavory business of crowd control upon their underlings.
“People who have been in the company for a while will find some excuse to be inside the party cavorting and hobnobbing,” said Angelo Bianchi, who has run the door at hot spots like the Electric Room and the Jane hotel. “A comparatively inexperienced individual will be stuck outside trying to manage the mess.”
But the face lists have their share of detractors, not least of all professional doormen who treat rejection as an art form. For them, the automation of guest lists makes night life impersonal.
“I’ve never used a list in my life,” said Simonez Wolf, who guards the entry to the Top of the Standard. He recounted an evening at a store opening when he surged through the crowd to bring Carine Roitfeld safely inside, after she went unrecognized by corporate newcomers.
“If you don’t know the people coming, then you shouldn’t be at the door in the first place,” he said. “It’s a dying breed.”