There were very few signs of a recession as we approached the corner of Fifth Avenue and University Street last Thursday night. Even the bitter cold bite was gone from the air as a pack of laughing girls with shopping bags slung over their arms crossed through the gold, opening-party light slipping out from the ever-so-slightly bottlenecked front door of the new, gleaming Gucci store.

Ahead of us, a tall, thin woman made taller (and thinner?) by severe bone structure and a high, high pony tail turned her head dramatically from one side to the other as if she was looking for someone. Or something. The pony tail swished, she smiled at no one in particular, and it felt like Paris or Moscow, which, let’s be frank here, are two cities I’ve never visited. Still—the mood was grand, and old, and rich. And I suppose I was already thinking of the Eastern bloc-meets-left bank cossack gear sent down the fall 08 runways by Gucci’s Frida Giannini and pictured here on that heavenly Natasha Poly.

The woman with the pony tail gave her name, we gave ours, and inside, on a platform, a couple of Natasha Poly-substitutes from the local agencies posed in gowns of muted plum and cloudy lavender. Trophy shelves of logo’ed, tassled hobo bags gave way to a brightly lit exhibition of supple leather riding boots for women who are not likely to ever see the back end of a horse. In an alcove outfitted with sky blue, watermelon red, and that iconic classic brown menswear, I snapped a picture of some pretty ideal-looking weekend bags. Unfortunately, the shutter cued a very pleasant man in a black suit who regretted to inform me that he could not allow me to photograph anything or anyone in the store. This was a bummer because I was warming up to photograph the party-goers, who were awfully photographable. But rules are rules, even in fashion. We’ll have to do, instead, with description.

There was, first and foremost, a fair-skinned, large-scale man in his (I’ll guess) early 30s with a fox slung over his shoulder. I’m not pro-fur, nor am I pro-draping an entire animal across your body, I’m just saying: If there was one person that everyone at the party saw, it was this dude. He wore loafers—I’ll assume Gucci—under premium Levi’s with pegged, stovepipe legs. You didn’t much care what was under the fox stole, but it was something like a butter-brown cashmere suit jacket. A dark brown bowler hat — the kind favored by fashion party DJ + former Lindsay Lohan GF Samantha Ronson, designer Betsy Johnson, and surrealist Rene Magritte — balanced on the back of his head.

About that head: At one point one of my friends said, ‘Check it out, his temples are shaved.’ But at a packed party, a word like ‘temples’ can sound like a number of other words, so I misheard it as the name for a body part about eighteen inches south of each temple, in the region of a fox’s head—if the body in question had a stole slung over it. I wondered how on earth my friend was able to tell, from his distance, that that particular and rather intimate area of this man’s body had been shaved, but then I realized that I had heard him wrong. Temples. Oh, okay. Sure enough, the guy’s hairline had been shoved back an inch or so around his ears. It was subtle, because his hair was cut super short into what we used to call a fade, but not subtle, because who shaves their temples and shoves their hairline back behind their ears? Guys who wear fox stoles—or so the answer would seem. The overall affect was eccentric, slightly androgynous, and somehow up an octave or so. In fact, I started subconsciously humming an Antony and the Johnsons song.

When I was able to take my eyes of the fox, I enjoyed watching a super hot black woman made hotter, and taller and thinner, by giant stacked heels. Again, I’m going to assume they were Gucci. The jeans were not Gucci, but they were, like the fox wearer’s and about 82% of the attendees’, stovepipe and skinny. Hers rose up to her sternum where they enveloped a fluttery purple tiered blouse. I didn’t watch her so much for what she was wearing, however, but the attitude she took by having it on. She strode around on those foot-long sandal spikes as if she were looking for Rhianna, Beyonce, and Ciara, not to be all, ‘Hey girl!’ but, rather, ‘I told you to stand right over there and hold my drink.’ I’m not pro-attitude, per se, but some people wear like it a really good bag—Gucci, I’d assume—you know?

Somewhat tamer but no less riveting was a woman working for the store in some (I’m guessing) event management capacity. There was almost nothing done-up about her; her make-up was undone, her hair seemed tied back out of necessity not invention, and her jeans-and-tunic-ish look was serviceable, not statement-making. But her boots. Her boots were the flat-heeled fringed things that Natasha’s got on, above, so when she snuck this way and that through the crowd they made thick, slapping noises and caught a few innocent bystanders with their wild swing. If I had to pick one of these three revelers to get caught up with in a line for the ladies’ room, it would be her. No doubt. Because sometimes less says a lot more. And hey, no dead animals.

I could go on. The deep shop (it goes on, and on) was stacked with folks that none of us had ever seen before, and not a few friends and relations as well. There was the Art Institute’s Joan Kelly, Gisela from Ragamoffyn’s, Dee Hewitt of this month’s Style Counsel page, and JJ McKay, who is usually around whenever two or more are gathered in the art of fundraising—which was another thing going down at Gucci that night, in the name of Seattle International Film Festival.

No one thought about recessions or depressions, no one quoted plummeting market indices or mentioned who had or handn’t lost their job that day. We just snacked on tiny, 80s-style passed hors d’oeuvres and enjoyed the scenery. It was the perfect night, and the perfect place, to be just looking.

(Image from Style.com)

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