“We’re exchanging songs for shirts,” announced Matt Berninger, front man of the Brooklyn band the National at last night’s opening of Zara’s Fifth Avenue flagship store that drew the likes of Jen Brill, Todd Selby, Hanne Gaby Odiele, and Narciso Rodriguez. The fête celebrated the Spanish brand’s largest outlet in the United States, spanning four floors with more than 32,000 square feet devoted to women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing and accessories. “I love Zara,” confessed Rodriguez. “They’re so intuitive about what women and men want.” The designer’s recent purchase? Two pairs of red trousers. “Every time I wear them I get compliments.”
Not every guest was well versed in all things Zara, however. “I can’t believe it’s inexpensive,” mused first-time customer Rafael de Cárdenas, eyeing a men’s suit. “It doesn’t look cheap; I’m impressed.” Also ogling the menswear was Zara virgin Jen Brill. “I never shopped here, but Carlos Mota once wore this amazing white blazer with blue piping and I still think about it,” the Chanel ambassador told Style.com. Meanwhile, Kate Schelter extolled the brand’s timesaving virtues. “You can walk in and within 15 minutes find a piece to wear that night,” enthused Schelter, in a monochrome look punctuated with a gold bib necklace. “People keep asking me if my outfit is Zara tonight…nowadays people can’t tell the difference.” She added with a wink, “It’s not, but it goes to show you that Zara can look like Valentino.”
Though The National have a strong fashion following, they’ve always been a little too introspective to qualify as a “fashiony” band. So it was something of a surprise to find out they’d be headlining last night’s kickoff party for the Fall ’11 season at MAC & Milk. It’s always tempting to credit an opening event with setting the tone for the fashion week ahead; in this case, as National lead singer Matt Berninger (left) keened into the DeLeón tequila-tippling crowd, the temptation was to imagine a week of poetic agitation and body shots. (Which would be interesting, and kind of like college.) Or perhaps the event was auguring a fashion week more intimate than usual, and more full of feeling? At any rate, the atypical band brought out a few atypical A-listers, among them Liev Schreiber and Josh Lucas, and a crowd a bit more representative of rumpled Brooklyn chic than one usually finds in a fashion scene. Maybe “Brooklyn-ness” is the key to this fashion week: After all, MAC & Milk organizer Jenne Lombardo, who booked the National at 11:30 a.m. the previous morning, has also seen fit to replace the much-loved taco lounge of two seasons ago with a hangout space catered by Bushwick pizza place Roberta’s. “They’re doing their cool gangsta build out,” Lombardo said of the Roberta’s guys, who are legendary Brooklyn D.I.Y.ers. Fair warning, noshers, there won’t be endless snacks as there were in the (taco) salad days of yore, but a lucky few will be able to snag some chow. And maybe before the week is out, we’ll all be killing time between shows planting a vegetable garden on the Milk Studios rooftop. Then again, maybe not.