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The Charity Ball Game

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“People always think the other table is better,” Karl Lagerfeld says. “I am pretentious: I like trendy editors, the girls of the moment, but I want to sit with my friends.” The friends are said to be Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant, Stephen Gan, Hedi Slimane, and Nicole Kidman, the current face of Chanel and the celebrity chair of the event. He’ll also have several terribly hot models, whom he is pleased to describe as “new—but very good!—friends.”

Vogue also uses the party to validate young designers, some of whom have start-up costs less than the price of a table. Zac Posen, for instance, will likely be sandwiched between backer P. Diddy and cheerleader André Leon Talley at a Vogue-sponsored table. “I’d better be in Mongolia if I was invited and didn’t go,” says Peter Som, the young designer. This year he doesn’t have a celebrity to dress, just a photogenic Vogue editor named Meredith Melling Burke.

Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez, the moody-eyed pretty boys behind Proenza Schouler, get prime seating—they’re photogenic and talented—with Vogue fashion features director Sally Singer and Jennifer Connelly. Last year, McCullough and Hernandez dressed Marisa Tomei; this year, they’re still waiting for promises.

André Leon Talley says, “You cannot lobby for your seat. I can if I want.”

It’s a work in progress, that seating chart. Wolkoff keeps a calligrapher by her side the day of the event. It’s inevitable that changes will have to be made.

While Wolkoff worries about where people are sitting, the guests are worrying about what they’re wearing. And wardrobe decisions, too, are down to the wire. Some are confirmable: Katie Holmes, for example, is newly besotted with Carolina Herrera and has already been fitted, alongside socialites Jennifer Creel, Heather Mnuchin, and Wolkoff herself, by Herrera design director Hervé Pierre in “Chanel-inspired” one-of-a-kind dresses. Rachel Weisz and Bridget Moynahan have been making some very convincing noises over at Valentino, and Naomi Watts had definitely been sighted at Calvin Klein. Narciso Rodriguez has worked up something special for his loyal client Jessica Seinfeld, and Connelly is rumored to be working on something with Balenciaga.

And, of course, there’s Chanel: Lagerfeld adapted one of Coco Chanel’s best dresses from the twenties for Wintour, and Kidman will wear current season. Vanessa Paradis is wearing regular old Chanel, while Selma Blair found a piece of haute couture in the archives that appealed. The young dance chairs were each invited to pick a favorite. Lauren Davis had one in mind from a few years back that she will accessorize with ropes of black Tahitian pearls from Chanel’s fine-jewelry shop on Madison Avenue.


The Strategist Stephanie Winston Wolkoff puzzles over the seating chart in her war room. “I’ve been doing this for nine years now,” Wolkoff says, “and it’s the hottest ticket. My phone rings off the hook and I have to say, ‘Look, I have 100 people on the wait list—people Chanel cares about, Vogue cares about, the Met cares about, but there’s just no more room.’ ”   

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