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An L.A. welcome party with wattage

Stars embrace Gucci's new designer at a benefit dinner and encore spring showcase.

November 18, 2005|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

The fashion industry may still have doubts about Gucci's new designer Frida Giannini, but Hollywood welcomed her with open arms on Wednesday night.

The occasion was the annual Children's Action Network/Westside Children's Center benefit, hosted by InStyle magazine at the home of Eva and Michael Chow.

The evening began with an encore presentation of the Gucci spring ready-to-wear show, staged on a runway constructed of lacquered rosewood imported from Milan especially for the event. The collection was a hit with guests, including boutique owner Tracey Ross who said, "Those little girl dresses are soooo cute!"

Rita Wilson was more reserved. "There were some lovely things, a little young for me perhaps, but there were some things I could wear, like this!" she said, pointing to her long, black bias-cut chiffon gown with a train. Did she feel like she was cheating on her pal Tom Ford, the designer who was ousted from Gucci last year? "Nah, Tom is a doll, and he has a lot going on," she said, referring to his new cosmetics line for Estee Lauder, his licensed eyewear collection and his budding film career.

Still one couldn't help but imagine how much Ford would have enjoyed being at the Chows' stunning place, with a Julian Schnabel portrait here, a Jean-Michel Basquiat portrait there and a soaring entryway built to accommodate a large Keith Haring work.

The rectangular marble structure designed by Chow combines Modernism and traditional Asian accents. Open and airy, the house is built on two levels, with wood beam ceilings and a central hall supported by Roman columns. Only recently completed, this was the house's coming out party and it received mixed reviews from guests.

Outside by the minimalist rectangular pool, actress Julie Delpy was fixated on two impeccably groomed palm trees. "They must have had them sanded," she said, admiring the smooth trunks.

Others murmured quietly that the place was like a cross between a museum and a mausoleum. Still it was a treat for guests to have the run of the place, including the pool house and the perfectly appointed kitchen.

About 180 guests, including Charlize Theron, Adrien Brody, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, Drew Barrymore, Eva Mendes, Robert Graham, Laura Dern and Serena Williams, were seated at long tables for dinner.

Jimmy Fallon, who always elicits swoons from single girls, was chatting up Lindsay Lohan, while Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey got to know Giannini better.

For dinner, guests were served pasta with truffles, filet mignon and halibut with wild mushrooms and lots of Laurent-Perrier champagne. "I kind of wish they had served food from Mr. Chow," one woman quipped.

And the berry parfait for dessert was apparently no match for Emmy Rossum's Thanksgiving tarts, which she bakes inside hollowed out oranges, she said. The New York-based actress is quite a chef, and she's been honing her skills in Beverly Hills, where she has been renting a house for the last five months, while filming the upcoming Wolfgang Petersen film "Poseidon." Rossum, 19, in a simple black Gucci gown tied on one shoulder, had a lot to say about star style and the responsibility she feels to keep up appearances, even when she's going to the grocery store. "You never saw Audrey Hepburn in Ugg boots," she said.

After dinner, guests took the elevators up to the roof for an acoustic concert by Ben Harper under the stars. "For me, this is a dream," said Giannini, dressed in a green floral chiffon cocktail dress with embroidered crystal flowers. The designer, an avid collector of vinyl records, was especially thrilled about shaking hands with Stevie Wonder. "To meet all of these people who inspire me," she said. "I could die right now."

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