Thursday night on the steps of the New York Public Library, a sea of familiar faces flooded the red carpet for the third annual Inspiration Gala–a celebration of men’s style to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Chaired by Kenneth Cole and Dr. Mathilde Krim, with Marc Jacobs presiding as honorary chair, the evening featured a live auction, runway shows and a performance by Scissor Sisters that raised over $1 million dollars.
Josh Duhamel and Hillary Swank presented awards to Fergie and Robert Duffy, of Marc Jacobs International, in honor of their contributions to the fight against AIDS. Inspiration Gala is one of a series of amfAR events that have raised over $3 million total for AIDS research.
With a Grey Goose Cherry Noir cocktail reception awaiting post-carpet, many of the notable attendees, among them Mark Sanchez, Rose McGowan, Cheyenne Jackson, Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa, Thom Browne, Greg Louganis, Ben Cohen, Simon Doonan, Jonathan Adler, Debbie Harry, Gail Simmons, Clinton Kelly, Kelly Bensimon, Sean Patterson, Larry Boland and John Demsey, rushed past inside to the Stephen A. Swartzmann Building.
We asked a few questions of producer Joshua Woods, who reported first and foremost that Simon Doonan was auctioning off the world’s most expensive and high-tech toilet.
“It took a bit for me to get onboard with that request when it came through,” he said. “But the odd things give [an event] character.”
“The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders wanted to come,” he added. “They couldn’t make it, but we do have the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders. Many people have asked if Greg Louganis is walking in the show in his Speedo. Someone asked if I would wear a wrestling singlet. That’s not happening.”
Mr. Cole reported on the red carpet that nothing had gone wrong, “yet.”
Despite Mr. Wood’s biggest fears going into the event: “Rain. Too hot. Too cold. No one having fun. Am I sweating? Why are tuxedos so uncomfortable?” he echoed his fellow chairman. “We should be good. I have faith in the universe.”
Mr. Wood added that the event took over a two-block long corridor in library, making it “pretty much [the] world’s longest runway.” He explained that each year has a different theme for the runway show and guests. This year, inspired by the Olympics and modern sports, 65 models and 50 designers worked to pull off black-tie-meets-athletic attire. The 72 resulting looks were auctioned off during the dinner.
Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters got in the spirit with an ambitious set of bottoms: one cut-off and normal-length black jean spotted with white safety pins. Sheer genius? We weren’t sure. The band goes on tour next week in Vegas–amfAR is just the start.
“I love playing parties like this,” he said. “We’ve been wanting to do it for years and have never been in the city when it’s been going on.” On playing in the States, he added: “We have a very sexy crowd.”
Many celebrities donned Marc Jacobs Collection, among them Ms. Swank and, most notably, Ms. Harry with a fabulously chic pair of black lens 2003 limited-edition glasses.
According to Mr. Cole, everything about the night was unique: “Tonight is really catered to the fashion community and it’s a way of celebrating how far we’ve come, speaking to a constituent group that’s been very supportive for a very long time.”
“This past year we have learned, for the most part, how to live with AIDS. There is no rational scenario today where people should contract the virus going forward,” he said. “We know how to render ourselves safe, we know how to prevent ourselves from spreading the virus, we know how to protect unborn children from contracting the virus in the womb–but we still don’t have a cure. So tonight we’re going remind everybody about how far we’ve come and what we still need to do, and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
“You have a lot of the fashion community that’s here to make their unique personal statements, individual expression, and that’s what amfAR does. We’re very creative and innovative in how we fund research initiatives, and that is why we’ve been seed money for the six groups of drugs today that keep people alive,” he said.
Everything was donated, Mr. Wood explained. “The models do it for free. The stylist, the casting directors, the tailors…everyone volunteers. It’s really like a giant school play where everyone is doing it for the love of the cause. Very much a ‘Let’s get together and put on a good show’ kind of thing,” he said.
Though about as mysterious as her black-lensed glasses, Ms. Harry was on the same page: “It’s one of these things,” she said. “What goes around, comes around.”