Press  •  December 2012

November , 2012

At The Social Set’s Holiday Parties, The Past Is Present

Last week, the in-demand event designer Bronson van Wyck made his first foray into retail with a holiday pop-up space at the West Village vintage shop Overbey & Dunn. A shrine to traditional (read: WASP) Christmas, it’s richly decked out with vintage baubles and antlered taxidermy. There are magnolia garlands by the foot, with the added option of gilding and pomegranates—”an ancient symbol of prosperity and good fortune,” van Wyck explained at the launch party Thursday night, which drew the likes of André Balazs (left, with van Wyck) and Martha Stewart. (”Fabulous,” the entertaining queen declared, admiring a basket of faux-glass ornaments.) Van Wyck’s staff—or “elves,” as he’s calling them—will even deliver you a made-to-measure Christmas tree.

People tend to get nostalgic around the holidays. We literally turn the clocks back, as if to prepare for them. But there seems to be more nostalgia going on this time around. For the high-minded party set this season, revisiting the past is all the rage.

Van Wyck also went retro this fall for Bergdorf’s 111th anniversary bash, which he helped plan, and admits that he’s not exactly reinventing the wheel with his new line of cocktail mixers (Bloody Mary and Margarita) and salad dressings. The uptown-ish crowd he caters to has, of course, always held to a certain way of doing things. But now others are experimenting with that way as well.

“For women, I think heritage is more important these days with jewelry and accessories,” stylist Kate Schelter suggested at van Wyck’s opening. A couple new ventures, both from women who routinely make the Manhattan evening rounds, certainly back up the jewelry point: Dalia Oberlander’s e-commerce site, Latest Revival, and Lisa Salzer’s Spring collection for Lulu Frost, inspired by society dames of yore. Her pieces are co-branded withLet’s Bring Back, a book series and really a franchise of sorts created by writer Lesley Blume. 

Her most recent volume takes on the world of retro cocktails—not necessarily the most accessible topic for today’s style set. “For fashion people, it’s really just about Champagne and vodka-soda these days,” Blume said. “Socializing is often treated as a form of networking—just think of how many parties are in stores!—and people don’t drink as much because they want to stay in control.” All the more reason, she maintains, to embrace the past. The names of the cocktails alone tell the story: the Hanky Panky, the Monkey Gland, the Angel’s Tit. And those were just the three Blume served at her book launch.

Blume, who’s studied the subject pretty thoroughly, couldn’t think of a cocktail-related anecdote that involved the likes of a Schiaparelli or a Chanel. But she speculated that some big fashion, or at least Hollywood, figures might have gone in for a so-called “Miltown cocktail,” named after the tranquilizer pill that was in vogue in the fifties. (Hardcore partiers would sub one in for a martini olive.) What if a few audacious fashion-boutique-revelers brought that one back? “I’m not necessarily advocating it,” she said.

—Darrell Hartman