c.2015 New York Times News Service

c.2015 New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES — It was 6:30 on the Friday before Oscars Sunday, and the W editor, Stefano Tonchi, was craving a little quiet time. He was standing in the fortresslike Milk Studios in Hollywood, which was the site of that evening’s Tom Ford fashion show. He had gotten off a flight that afternoon.

“I got my hotel room at the last minute,” he said, vodka tonic in hand. “I wanted to have a cup of coffee and eat some French fries and sit down and make a phone call.”

So he headed off to the Sunset Tower’s bar to unwind. That didn’t happen.

“There wasn’t one person I didn’t know,” he said, recalling the scene. There was a Burberry executive; a Harper’s Bazaar editor; Rachel Zoe’s husband, Rodger Berman; the fashion habitué Derek Blasberg; and the son of the owner of Tod’s.

The cocktail hour surrounding Tonchi at Milk Studios was no different: there was John Demsey, the group president of Estée Lauder Companies; Leonard Lauder himself; Anna Wintour; the Cosmopolitan editor, Joanna Coles; and the Lucky editor, Eva Chen. Not to mention the ridiculous A-list stars all around, a front row that included Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Miley Cyrus, Julianne Moore and Jennifer Lopez.

Fashion and the Oscars have gone hand in hand for decades, but it’s never been like this.

The Oscars weekend this year wasn’t just the usual smattering of editors grading the red carpet or the spare designer in town to do a fitting. A significant chunk of the New York fashion world (and the fashion world at large) came here to attend Ford’s show and absorb the craziness of the rest of Oscars weekend. Ford skipped out on showing in London this year, and these folks, in turn, did exactly the same.

“The second I heard it,” Wintour said, when asked when she knew she’d forgo London in favor of Los Angeles to see Ford. “Tom Ford’s a huge draw. He’s showing here for the first time, and it was a brilliant move on his part.”


The Oscars usually conflicts with the European collections (two years ago, it was Milan; last year, it was Paris; this year, London), but this was the first time Wintour would attend the Academy Awards (she attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party once before).

“You’ll be sick of seeing me,” she added, as she made her way into the show.


Hollywood may be a one-industry town, but it was more than accommodating of the endless amount of fashion parties, lunches and dinners this year.

“I’ve been living out here for 22 years, working in this business off and on that whole time, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Crystal Lourd, the Los Angeles socialite who has worked as a celebrity wrangler for labels like Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren. “I think people realize that it’s a profitable thing for their business to get the exposure.”

Lourd was speaking from an event earlier on Feb. 20, a luncheon that Net-a-Porter was hosting for the makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury.

But there was something distinct about this lunch: Tilbury is a Briton, and there were a whole lot of British accents in this courtyard at the restaurant A.O.C. in Beverly Hills. Shouldn’t these turncoats be in London?

“It’s all about the red carpet,” Tilbury said. “Who can ignore the red carpet?”

This was a convenient answer: Tilbury’s new makeup, Goddess Skin Clay Mask, includes the tag line “The new red carpet beauty secret of the stars.”

“The heat is in LA this weekend,” said Lucy Yeomans, the Net-a-Porter and Porter magazine editor, sounding resigned.

The model and socialite Poppy Delevingne, who calls London her hometown, was less forgiving.

“We’re sorry, but the sunshine is too tempting,” she said. “To be honest, I’m out here for pilot season. But there are just so many great things going on. This lunch for Charlotte, the Diane von Furstenberg picnic tomorrow, the Chanel dinner tomorrow and Vanity Fair on Sunday. It’s like fashion week out here.”

Zoe, the Los Angeles-based stylist, was just a few feet away, and delighted by this.

“This makes me happy,” she said. “The fashion world has migrated to LA in a way that I haven’t seen in I don’t think ever.”

At Ford’s show that night, the mood was relaxed, unlike the normal get-in-and-get-out spirit of most fashion shows.

People arrived for cocktails close to the appointed hour, 6 p.m., and relaxed over vodka and champagne. Paltrow stood at the bar with three friends for almost 40 minutes before everyone was summoned a little after 7. (Even Wintour, notorious for bursting out of her seat the second a show ends, mingled after the show.)

“Like we didn’t have enough to do already,” Paltrow said, laughing. “But you know what? I love the fact that Tom’s saying there aren’t rules in fashion anymore, that there aren’t seasons.”

Just don’t tell that to the British designers.

Ford said he knew he would have no problems filling this room, either with celebrities or big-time editors. He knew in his heart the attraction of Oscars week.

“My agent’s at CAA, and the CAA party is right after this,” he said, after the show, referring to the pre-Oscars party hosted by the Creative Artists Agency. “I go every year and know people get dressed up on Friday night. I used to have an Oscars party on Thursday night. It started with 70 people, and it went up to about 250 people. I had people offering to buy my Oscar party slot on Thursday night because they knew I swept up a lot of people.”


He hasn’t held the party in a few years, he said, but he learned a valuable lesson: “I knew these people were in town, they were all friends and hopefully they had to come.”

Like Johansson.

“It’s unexpected to see an event like this in LA more than anything,” she said from her front-row seat. “I remember Fashion Week in LA, which feels like a relic from the past.”


If Fashion Week in Los Angeles isn’t making a roaring comeback, then the fashion world has conceded it has to have a permanent place out here, at least for this weekend.

The Italian label Armani is no stranger to dressing celebrities, but it has finally ritualized an event: a pre-Oscars cocktail party, which began last year.

“My uncle invented a business that didn’t exist before,” said Roberta Armani, from the terrace of the Armani store on North Rodeo Drive. “In the ‘80s, he dressed celebrities when no one did it.”

Armani held a couture show here eight years ago, the weekend before the Oscars, which was similarly star-studded. Armani said that it was time to put something more permanent on the schedule by hosting this party, which included Cate Blanchett and Chris Pine.

Later Saturday evening, Wintour and the designer Tommy Hilfiger went to a Harvey Weinstein dinner, and Chanel held a dinner of its own at Madeo, which included Jessica Chastain, Kristen Stewart and Keira Knightley.

Earlier that day, von Furstenberg and Barry Diller held their annual pre-Oscars picnic for a crowd of a little more than 400 at their estate in Beverly Hills. Among the media moguls (Les Moonves, Jeff Bezos, Rupert Murdoch), there were a bunch of models who stood out conspicuously among the picnic blankets. Wintour sat at a picnic table and ate lunch with Ford’s husband, Richard Buckley.

One night later, at the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party, no one was working the room harder than the Valentino public relations chief, Carlos Souza.

“Julianne!” he screamed at Moore, who was racing out of the party with her Oscar in hand. “Carlos from Valentino.”

She stopped and they hugged. He examined her Oscar.

It may as well have been a Valentino event. There were models galore (Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid) and designers, including the Calvin Klein creative director, Francisco Costa, and Hilfiger. Costa dressed Lupita Nyong’o in a dress that featured 6,000 pearls (and was stolen from her hotel room).

“I flew out to LA on Friday morning right after my show,” Costa wrote by email, after the party. “It’s really critical for me to be there for the final fittings as that’s where the magic happens.”


Hilfiger said that he had been coming out here for about six years.

“There’s always some sort of business benefit to this,” he said. “I also went out because my daughter recently had a baby, I came to visit my grandchild, and my son Richard is dating Rita Ora. She performed at Harvey’s event and the Oscars.”

At the Vanity Fair party, when Jason Wu wanted his picture taken with another guest, he turned and asked the designer Zac Posen, who was just a foot away, to do it. Wu spent the rest of his night with the actress and fashion fixture Diane Kruger.

“At some point, I turned around, and said to Diane, ‘Are we at an Oscars party or a fashion party?'” he said. “You turn around, there’s Karlie, there’s Joan, there’s Anna. It’s a New York story happening in Los Angeles.”