Bettina’s Take: Valentino 50th Anniversary and New Flagship Store Opening on Rodeo Drive

by Bettina Zilkha 03/29/12

 Photo: (Left to right) Abigail Spencer, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Nicky Hilton, Jessica Szohr, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Ellie Kemper

Photo: (Left to right) Abigail Spencer, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Nicky Hilton, Jessica Szohr, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Ellie Kemper

Valentino is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year with a redesign of several boutiques, including its Beverly Hills location.

This called for a celebration, LA style, a star-studded cocktail party with camera flashes going into overdrive. Kim Kardashian, Minka Kelly, Abigail Spencer, Jessica Szohr, Jason Lewis, Ellie Kemper, Ciara and many more came to admire the new David Chipperfield creation on Rodeo Drive.

The store combines old and new elements, with the feel of a palazzo or a private home, using opulent materials such as American walnut, mirrored glass, and Venetian terrazzo—the perfect setting to show off Valentino's spectacular collections.

"I think Valentino is very chic," Kardashian, wearing Lela Rose, told FashionEtc. "I love the new collection with the studs—it's very feminine at the same time. I've been a fan for a long time."

Nicky Hilton, who co-hosted the festivities along with Maria Bell, Gia Coppola, Helen Kinnear, Nathalie Love, Minnie Mortimer, Shannon Rotenberg, and Julia Sorkin, looked stunning in head-to-toe Valentino.

"I just got back from the show in Paris. The clothes are so beautiful, timeless and chic. It just gets better and better," said Hilton, who recently launched an app called Trendable, an Instagram for fashion.

"I am totally honored to host and am so happy to be part of this celebration," said Mortimer, a designer herself. "Valentino shows an unparalleled fashion genius and most importantly I adore wearing the clothes!"

Valentino Creative Directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli beamed as hundreds of beautiful people admired the boutique.

"We have a great collection ahead," they said, referring to winter 2012. "It will be very sleek but with a folk element. We like to balance materials, such as the dangerousness of leather with macrame and embroidery. You can't define the collection in one word, just as you can't define a woman in one word."

As guests grazed on caviar and sipped champagne, the clothes were definitely the greatest temptation. I asked Dr. Drew Pinsky if it was ok to be addicted to shopping.

"It's not ok to be addicted to shopping, but it's ok to be addicted to style," he answered cleverly.

Marveling at the rack before us, I just couldn't let it go. Maybe I was looking for permission. From Dr Drew.

"Is it ok to be addicted to THESE clothes?" I prodded.

"I wouldn't want my wife to be addicted to these clothes!" was his panicstricken reply.

Oh well, I guess I'll have to reign myself in too. Quel dommage.


Bettina’s Take: ‘Haywire’ Cinema Society Screening

by Bettina Zilkha 01/19/12

 Photo: Ewan McGregor and Gina Carano at the Cinema Society screening

Photo: Ewan McGregor and Gina Carano at the Cinema Society screening

Gina Carano, the gorgeous 29-year old mixed martial arts superstar, is currently starring in Steven Soderbergh's latest movie, Haywire. Talk about accomplished.

At the Cinema Society screening in New York City, Carano spoke to FashionEtc about the challenge of transitioning from one medium to another.

"I'd never acted before," said the tall, buff and surprisingly soft-spoken champion, wearing Bebe, "but I think that my fighting background, and being in front of thousands of people in very intensive circumstances, helped me a lot."

The movie, an adrenaline-fueled thriller about a highly trained government operative betrayed by her colleagues, features Carano fighting with the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum—and they are all impressive fighters.

It seemed a little scary, but for Ewan McGregor, fighting was the best part of making the film.

"We had a big fight scene, me and Gina, and that was the most fun," the approachable and upbeat McGregor told us—180 degrees from the character he plays in the film.

"It's just fun learning fights, learning the choreography. When you've got something physical to do it's great fun, especially when you're doing it with such a professional, capable and attractive athlete. Gina doesn't break sweat. She's better than I could ever, ever be—so that was my main worry, keeping up with her."

Soderbergh and producer Greg Jacobs developed the movie around Carano, so the fight scenes were real and choreographed—a throwback to a time before intense special effects.

"The biggest challenge was maintaining confidence about the approach," said Soderbergh. "The way we were shooting the action isn't the way a lot of people are shooting action lately. Believing that it would work, and that it would be compelling to audiences now, was the hardest part. We'll find out this weekend [when it opens] if we were right. We're going against the grain of the way people are shooting action right now. I was able to use a more classical style because I didn't have to cheat."

It is indeed a wild ride, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat stuff, and watching this great cast, which also includes Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas, is a rare treat.

A drink was in order, so guests headed over to Sons of Essex for "Haywire" Margaritas and "Covert" Manhattans made with Don Julio tequila, while munching on skirt steak and pork belly sliders.

Gina Gershon, Blake Lively, Elizabeth Banks, Tony Danza and Stefano Tonchi mingled and air-kissed. Someone asked who Aaron Carter was. "He was in Harry Potter," was the answer. I don't think so, dude. Carter is currently performing Off-Broadway in The Fantasticks, and is working on a new album.

Haywire opens January 20. It's a great escape. Go see it.


Bettina’s Take: The 18th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit —Voluptuous Panic

by Bettina Zilkha 08/02/11

 Photo: a look at one of the exhibitions

Photo: a look at one of the exhibitions

Brilliant. Controversial. Genius. Provocative. Hilarious. Serious. Pompous. Ridiculous. Sublime.

These comments, and more, were being thrown around at every turn at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center this year.

The theme was Voluptuous Panic, and Wilson didn't disappoint. A big, faux breasted woman in a red rose miniskirt greeted us at the entrance. A steamroller designed to generate atonal music as it rolled on the sand greeted guests in the courtyard. Three artists dressed in white, with white hoods, were attached to a giant white spine that culminated in a cloud. A “dog” in platforms held a woman in a black dress on a leash near a sign that warned, “Beware of Woman”.

“It's brilliant, bizarre and fabulous at the same time,” said LTMH Gallery owner Leila Heller, who knows a thing or two about contemporary art. “It's my favorite benefit of the year.”

There were a variety of conceptual pieces in the forest as well, the most alarming being two men buried up to their chins with microphones in front of each. One of them was pale as a ghost, beads of sweat dripping down his face. One of the guests was seriously worried, and asked if he needed help.

“I'm ok,” answered the poor guy, looking like he was about to faint. “I have to sing now," and both men proceeded to sing an out of tune rendition of “Tonight, tonight”. Another guest spritzed him with water. Did they rehearse this? What if he needed to scratch his nose? How about mosquitoes and ticks?

A doctor friend of mine was nonplussed, so I felt it was safe to move on to the extraordinary silent auction, where many savvy collectors have found pieces in the past by the likes of Will Cotton, Peter Dayton, and Robert Wilson himself.

This year, IFF, one of the evening's sponsors, created a special scent in honor of Wilson's 70th birthday and named it Black Rider after one of Wilson's musical productions. Seventy bottles (for 70 years) were included as an item in the silent auction item. Created by IFF Senior Perfumer Loc Dong, who had been in residence at the Watermill Center last summer, the scent is made up of seven ingredients, one for each of Wilson's decades.

“I am blown away. I’ve come to this event many times and tonight is one of the great amassment of arts, there are so many wonderful things to bid on, so I'm a bit fearful about all the things I’m going to find at this auction,” said Rufus Wainwright, shopping, looking dapper in a bejeweled black ensemble.

“I think it's wonderful that Bob is celebrating his 70th birthday with all the artists and all his friends. It's a wonderful experience, a typical Bob evening,” said contemporary art high priestess Beth DeWoody, in a white Tahari shirtdress that showed off her striking gold Anna Trzebinski seahorse pendant to perfection.

“It’s fabulous, as usual. Robert Wilson is the greatest, we’re very fond of him,” said Anne Hearst. “As I was walking in, I heard someone say that this is the most fun fundraiser of the summer.”

Hearst was looking at a sensuous painting by Michael Dweck, one of many extraordinary items being auctioned. Katie Lee, stunning in vintage Thierry Mugler, was among the art aficionados milling around the rows of incredible art.

“It’s totally cool, I don’t feel like I'm in the Hamptons at all, it’s otherwordly,” said Lee, who has come out with a book called Groundswell, a great, glamorous beach read. “I’ve never been to this event, and I’m having the best time.”

I was having the best time too but, alas, all good things come to an end, and I had another commitment, to another, completely different, organization.

Variety is the spice of life—isn't that right, Bob?


Bettina's Take: Bulgari Mon Jasmin Noir Launch

by Bettina Zilkha 03/10/11

 Photo: Eva Lorenzotti, Veronica Bulgari, and Jackie Astier at the Bulgari dinner

Photo: Eva Lorenzotti, Veronica Bulgari, and Jackie Astier at the Bulgari dinner

I love the Mediterranean. I love everything about it: the sea, the climate, the different cultures, the rich history. I love the way the air smells on a hot summer night—I'm talking Capri, under a lemon tree at 7 p.m., not Saint- Tropez, inside Les Caves du Roy at 4 a.m. (though that has a charm all its own).

So when Veronica Bulgari invited me to the launch of Bulgari's newest fragrance, Mon Jasmin Noir, in a Mediterranean Eden–inspired garden at the Bowery Hotel, I couldn't wait for my mini vacation.

And what a vacation it was, from the minute I walked up the stairs. Jasmine wafted through the air, and everywhere I turned, there was life: red-rosefilled "trees" designed for the occasion; centerpieces made of lemons, lemon peels, lemons dipped in gold, and white roses. Lewis Miller's creation was pitch-perfect; I defy anyone to "do" a better paradise than this.

The notes of Mon Jasmin Noir were artfully laid out on a table in the corner, where master perfumer and creator Olivier Polge told us it took a full year to perfect. Veronica Bulgari described it this way: "It's elegant, feminine, multiseasonal and unusual." Striking Tika Sumpter (Raina on Gossip Girl) agreed. "I like a perfume that's flirty and soft," she said.

Actress Lynn Collins, who was accompanied by her husband, rocker/actor /model Steven Strait, was enraptured by the fragrance. "I'm a perfume addict," said the X-Men Origins: Wolverine star. "I have many different oils and powders, and I make my own. By celebrating this man's work, I feel at home." Who knew scent was your secret weapon, Silver Fox?

Gossip Girl star Matthew Settle, who just wrapped So Undercover with Miley Cyrus, was discussing the concept of putting a redwood tree in New York's Madison Square Park with contemporary art guru Bettina Prentice. Matthew hatched the idea at ArtWalk last fall, and Bettina wants to help make it a reality.

"Matthew loved the idea of being able to demonstrate scale for inner-city populations that may not have an opportunity to see the majestic redwood in person," she explained. (More details to come when this meaningful project comes to fruition.)

And how does the multitalented Settle feel about scent? "Fragrance is empathetic for the audience as well as for our own taste," he said wisely. "I wear something very simple, but it suits me—it works with my chemistry."

Guests including Jamie Johnson, Ferebee Bishop, Claiborne Frank, and Veronica Beard slowly made their way to the dining area, a long black banquet table laden with flowers, lemons and bottles of Mon Jasmin Noir interspersed with majestic gilded candlesticks. It was fit for the mythological gods of ancient Rome and Greece. With a nod to Bacchus, most everyone loosened up.

"If this were Europe, people would have lingered until 4 a.m., chain-smoking at the table," sighed Genevieve Bahrenburg as we filed out to the exquisite dessert buffet, where DJ Paul Sevigny was spinning.

Well, this is New York and when I left at 11:30 p.m., the party was still going full force, smoke free.

Thank you, Bulgari, for a magical evening.