Now that grabbing as many goodie bags as one can stuff into a waiting Town Car, guzzling as much Veuve Clicquot as one can stomach, and then bragging about which celebrity-studded events one is "so exhausted" from attending is standard operating procedure, it's safe to say that A-list socializing in New York has never been more of a competitive sport. Taking a place at the starting line can be understandably overwhelming to newcomers, but Alice Sykes, who gave up the Notting Hill nest she shared with her boyfriend for an East Village sublet, is already posting victories.
"Harrison & Shriftman put me on their database immediately," recalls Sykes, 28, who has been in New York since September, "and said, 'You must come to everything!' " As the director of U.S. sales for Lulu Guinness handbags -- Guinness herself is a party-page regular in the U.K. whose whimsical creations sell out at Bergdorf Goodman and Kirna Zabête -- Sykes was never in danger of wanting for dinner invitations. But she also had the more significant advantage of being coached by two reigning champions of society-as-sport: her sisters, fashion-world figures and premier partygoers Plum (a writer at Vogue) and Lucy (a stylist at Marie Claire).
"The fact that they're English, twins, really beautiful -- it's the hook someone needed," says Alice. And some of their glitter dust is already rubbing off: Last week she found herself featured on an E! segment and sitting for a Glamour photo shoot. "People say, 'Oh, it must be so easy for you.' And I have met all these people I'd read about -- Manolo Blahnik had a party at Barneys. But the best thing about having Plum and Lucy here is going round to their house, sitting on the bed, watching a film, and eating chocolate."
A recent week in Sykes's engagement calendar, however, left little room for such desultory pleasures. MONDAY: Sykes sisters' dinner at Indochine. TUESDAY: cocktail party at Neiman Marcus in White Plains ("I've never been to New Jersey before!"). WEDNESDAY: a DKNY-sponsored book party at Laparue. THURSDAY: Tuscan Steak restaurant opening. FRIDAY: Lucky Strike with Plum and Plum's boyfriend, artist Damian Loeb. SATURDAY: Plum and Lucy's joint thirty-first birthday party at Amy Sacco's yet-to-open Bungalow 8, where the younger Miss Sykes lounged on Moroccan pillows, ogled Ralph Fiennes -- "he's so gorgeous" -- and wriggled with a transvestite belly dancer.
"Because my boyfriend's in England and Plum has a boyfriend here and Al doesn't, we seem to spend a bit more time together," says Lucy Sykes, the white-blonde sister whom Alice more closely resembles. "I took her to John Barrett the other day and gave her a New York makeover. Me and Plum give her all our clothes." "I've never seen girls with as amazing clothes as them," says Alice with a sigh. "The most incredible clothes you wouldn't be able to afford, but designers want to promote their clothes so they sell them wholesale."
It's a trick Alice just might adopt as she attempts to grow the handbag house in the States. Already they've gone from being carried in only 18 stores to 100 as of January. Her best marketing tool may be her sisters, who will host a tea for the fall 2001 line.
"Across the ocean," says Alice, "you open Vanity Fair, there's an amazing picture of Plum. Then you close it and get on with whatever you're doing. Lulu said, 'Alice, you're going to get rung up and get interviewed about what it's like to be a sister to Plum and Lucy.' " She laughs. "And I got here, and it's true. I didn't really know how famous they are."