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July 30 2014

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Some Enchanted Eveningwear:
Magic, Models, And More At Stella McCartney’s London Presentation

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“I wanted to show English humor and irreverence,” said Stella McCartney, so demure that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, even though, minutes before, she’d proved that unleashing mass hysteria in an audience is a talent that clearly runs in the family. To launch her exclusive London Evening collection for Fall 2012 (slideshow here), McCartney threw a black-tie bash at One Mayfair, a soaring neoclassical space that used to be the church where Led Zeppelin played its first London gig in 1968. At the beginning of the evening, when show producer Sam Gainsbury cryptically promised “something big,” there was a millisecond or so when I imagined a Led Zep reformation. One could but dream. Father Paul in a reprise of his Grammy performance? That, at least, would be easier to swing.

The crowd—including Rihanna, Kate Moss and Jamie Hince, Mario Testino, Juergen Teller, the Le Bons, the Driver sisters, Stella Tennant, Bianca Jagger, and belle of the ball, Shailene Woodley—was well seeded with models in Stella dresses. Not, they insisted, the clothes we had come to see. “We’re just guests,” said Kinga Rajzak, dazzling in a black sheath with a white contoured effect. She was one of the new guard of girls on hand. Shalom Harlow, Amber Valletta, Yasmin Le Bon, and Anouck Lepère were also wearing Stella gowns, ranging from variants on the contouring to marble-printed bubble dresses to confections spun from vibrant orange or electric blue lace. Lucie de la Falaise brought daughter Ella on her first big fashion night out. Appropriate, then, that they’d be staying over at godmother Moss’ London pad.

After guests chomped through a veg feast of five small but perfectly formed courses, Dutch illusionist Hans Klok, World’s Fastest Magician, took to the stage. He laid a hypnotized Alexa Chung across three huge scimitars and left her essentially floating in mid-air, balanced on the sword on which her head rested. Trance state or not, she claimed she could still feel the point of the blade an hour later. Childlike glee is always my default position with magic tricks, but surely this was not the “something big.” Suddenly, there was an almighty shriek from a nearby table, where it seemed like a scrap had broken out between a guest and a waiter. Then Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” came walloping over the sound system, and all hell broke loose. Models, waiters, and Shailene Woodley flew hither and yon in a breathtakingly tight dance routine choreographed (in 24 hours, apparently) by Blanca Li, a fierce-looking but funny Spanish woman who was sitting at my table quietly chatting with Pedro Almodóvar’s costume designer Paco Delgado one minute and whirling through space like a dervish the next. But in amidst the physical frenzy, there was the elegantly precarious image of Shalom, Amber, and Yasmin parading around the room on catwalks improvised from chairs placed under each foot as they took a step.

“Something big” it was, indeed. And thrilling and surprising. Even Simon Le Bon had no idea what his wife was about to do. It was all a remarkable testament to timing, pluck—and the remarkably pliable properties of Stella’s eveningwear.

CLICK HERE for the complete Fall ’12 eveningwear collection, plus pictures from the party and performance >

Photo: Courtesy of Stella McCartney