Once upon a time in the West Coco Chanel came to Dallas. Stanley Marcus gave her an award and then the way that wealthy women in those parts dressed was changed forever.
This week marked the triumphant return of Mademoiselle Chanel as Karl Lagerfeld and his entourage descended upon Dallas to showcase the houses’ Metiers d’Art collection. Like all epic events, this one had a Texas-sized share of excitement, glamor, intrigue and, of course, loads of drama.
Several weeks before the official invitations were hand delivered to a select few locals luminaries, rumors began to circulate about who made the cut. The fur was flying as names leaked out. Heated discussions about who was worthy of an invitation and who was not ensued. Even those who were invited took to debating the worthiness of their fellow invitees. The way it actually worked was that our local Chanel store and Neiman’s submitted lists to Paris but the final decisions were made by the Chanel’s PR folks. No amount of money, begging, bartering, pleading or threatening could conjure up a ticket if you weren’t on the final list. This wasn’t, after all, a “Dallas” event, per se. It was an international event, for press, retailers and the houses’ Haute Couture clients, that happened to use Dallas as it’s stage.
It probably strikes most people as strange that Lagerfeld chose Dallas as this year’s venue, but he did so for several reasons. First, while the French press was highly critical of Chanel when she reopened her atelier after a 15 year hiatus, she was warmly received by Stanley Marcus and the American press. Secondly, Dallas has a very strong identity that resonates with people all over the world. While we may feel that it is time to move on from being perceived of as the wild west, that iconic type of imagery is steeped in history and strong visual references that are the fodder for many a creative endeavor in film, art, music and fashion. Most cities in the United States are working hard to become more culturally sophisticated and Dallas is certainly a stellar example of that sort of progress. However, shining new buildings and beautifully designed cultural venues are not the stuff of fantastical creations.
The evening before the big show, the Dallas Contemporary hosted a cocktail soirée for out-of-town guests and locals. Never in my life have I seen so much Chanel in one room. I dragged my husband along who detests those sorts of things and after we left he asked me, “what was the point?” It was actually a good question because after all these years I am still not sure what drives me to get dolled up to go stand around a in a room sipping a glass of cheap wine. In this case, however, people watching was pretty spectacular as the crowd consisted of stylish types from all over the world. The main event here was clearly critiquing everyone’s outfit. There were other goings-on over at the Joule and Mansion where Lagerfeld, et al were ensconced, but you had to be a true fashion insider like my friend Tina Craig (aka, Bag Snob) to gain entree to those parties.
Dallas, fortunately, lacks paparazzi, so, given the magnitude of this event and the amount of celebrities in attendance, it was a bit unusual not to be blinded by flash bulbs upon entering. The invitation stated that attire was “After 8″. I thought I knew what that meant, but a bit of cognitive dissonance kicked in when I put that together with the fact that the event was being held at Fair Park. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was confused because the outfits were all over the map. Lauren Hutton walked in unnoticed right behind me.
The floor of the cocktail reception area was covered in bird seed. I was wearing 6″heels. My 16 year-old son Dallas was my date and was all swagged out in a Prada coat and Dior suit. (He’s a total fashion whore like his mom). We had a good time chatting with F!D Luxe editor Rob Brinkley and milling about the American Graffiti-themed (a George Lucas film set in 1962) cocktail reception and swooned over the 80 vintage convertibles set up like a drive-in theater for the viewing of Lagerfeld’s short film The Return. Anna Wintour, Lagergfeld and Andre Leon Talley all sat together in a car so that people could come up and get a photo op. It was all very civilized. There were bleachers set up behind the cars and the whole thing made me so nostalgic for my high school days that I wanted to find a straight guy to make out with me in back seat of one of the convertibles.
After the film credits rolled we were herded in heels across the street to the runway portion of the evening. Hot toddies were served to keep us warm on our journey. The runway venue, where under other circumstances grown men rope cows and ride bulls, was strewn with hay. I suffer from hay fever, but i didn’t realize until then that I am allergic to actual hay. Dallas and I were seated in the nose bleed section with a bunch of Dallas (the city) types like Gene Jones, Charlotte Anderson, Ana Pettus and Nancy and Richard Rogers.
I refer to my personal style as “Viking Warrior Diva”, so clothes that say “Big House on the Prairie” are probably not going to make it into my closet. However, I am capable of evaluating and appreciating things that are not in keeping with my aesthetic. The show was incredibly beautiful and full of the extraordinary details that you would expect from the Metiers d’ Art collection. Of course prairie skirts, elaborate fringed blouses, and ponchos were abundant but seemed to be more than just a cliche. Dallas (my son) thought that the models were insanely hot. The finale featured one of my favorite movie anthems - the theme song from Once Upon a Time in the West (a great spaghetti western by Sergio Leone staring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson) – and two models in elaborate white Native American headdresses which made a whole other group of people mad.
The White Elephant Saloon is the sight of Fort Worth’s last gunfight in 1887 between Longhair Jim Courtright and Saloon owner Luke Short. Lagerfeld meticulously recreated the historic spot for our post-show pleasure. French people were having a great time riding the electric bull, dancing the two-step and drinking American beer. I tore into some Frito-Chili pie and bar-b-que. I did have a small altercation with Andre Leon Talley when I tried to get a pic with him. He roared, “I AM TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION HERE!” Andre was formerly the Editor-At-Large at Vogue magazine and is now on reality TV. Later, I happened to bump in to a couple of the Chanel models. I asked them if they would mind following me to meet my son because he thought they were super hot. They graciously complied. Dallas (my son) almost passed out when I said, “Baby, look what I brought you — CHANEL MODELS!” Who wouldn’t want to have their picture taken with Dallas in Dallas?
Dallas and I had a good ol’ time hanging out with our friends Ana Pettus, Anna-Sophia Van Zweden, Jessica Nowitzki, Joyce Goss and our favorite local designer Nha Khahn. Kristen Stewart was right behind us playing pool. I need my beauty rest and Dallas had to study for a geometry exam so we left while the party was still in full swing. To my knowledge, nobody got into a gun fight.
About the author:
Heidi Dillon is an executive producer and parter at Los Angeles based television production company Morning Dew Pictures. She splits her time between her husband and son in Dallas and producing non-scripted television in Los Angeles. In 2008 she founded the Dallas-based non-profit The Fashionistas and also has a M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts. Before moving to Dallas 20 years ago, Heidi showed her work extensively on the East Coast.