Euros and Cocktails Flowing Freely

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

MILAN — If you’re at a Milan Fashion Week party, expect late hours.

At the sixth annual amfAR Milan Fashion Week gala last Saturday, the event’s host, Heidi Klum, didn’t make it to the dais until after 10 p.m. A seated dinner finished well after 11, and an after-party raged into the next morning.

“It’s very chill, it’s relaxed, it’s Italy,” Rosario Dawson said around 1 a.m., wearing a big Vionnet gown. “You can’t eat anything bad either.”

The amfAR dinner was not your typical rubber-chicken affair. (“I think that’s eggplant?” one American said, sizing up her meal before examining a program that described it as “carrè di manzo con patata fondente e melanzana alla parmigiana,” which required a trip to Google to confirm.)

And this being Italy, it didn’t take long before the La Permanente art museum, just north of the city center, was shrouded in cigarette smoke.

“It was hysterical; we sat down and waiters tried to get everyone to stop smoking,” Dawson said, laughing and taking a long puff from an imaginary cigarette. No one listened. “People are on their own rhythm over here.”

It wasn’t a star-studded week in Milan this season, but amfAR brought in Klum, Dawson, Jeremy Piven and Bella Thorne to the event, which raised more than $1.4 million for AIDS research.

Before the dinner, Champagne disappeared quickly during the cocktail hour. With the room filled with models and fashion figures, trays of toasted ham and cheeses and mini-burgers went noticeably untouched.

“I don’t know a lot about runway shows,” Piven said. “I went to Armani this morning, and it was really cool. It didn’t even feel like a runway show. It was like he directed models and it was a theater piece.”

Klum, who made it out to the Versace and Roberto Cavalli shows, said she adores Milan Fashion Week. “In New York, the fashion is a little harder, a little more sophisticated,” said Klum, wearing a Versace gown. “In Italy, they really celebrate women in a different way. It’s always a little bit more feminine and all about the shape.”

Before and during dinner, money flowed freely at the auction, where a Robert Rauschenberg painting and a photo of Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie by Terry O’Neill were for sale.

“This is worth way more than 100,000 euros,” said the slightly frustrated auctioneer during bidding for a Damien Hirst painting. (It would sell for 250,000 euros, or about $328,000.) Also up for bid: a blown-up (and signed) Grace Jones poster that would sell for 20,000 euros, or about $26,000.

As the auction finished, Jones herself came out for a thrilling three-song performance. There were outfit changes (an enormous wig, a tutu and a glittery hat). And for the last number, “Slave to the Rhythm,” she came out with a Hula Hoop.

But first she had to figure out where to twirl without tumbling from the stage. She considered taking over one of the dinner tables up front, before she braved an elevated platform onstage.

“It’s the only exercise I can get,” Jones, who is 66, said to roaring fans.