When the Threat of Tornados Drove Models and Designers Underground at the W Hotel
Simon Cocks When in doubt, always go for the bottle.
The underground parking lot of the W Hotel isn't all that different from the Ghost Bar some 300 feet above it in some ways: white walls, industrial interior. Still, the lack of air conditioning was growing uncomfortable, and my perfectly waved 'do was giving way to frizz, but that will happen at an evacuated party. The garage isn't so glamorous on its own, but toss in a few models, some emerging designers and an overdressed guest list ...
When the sirens first started going off, I was on the balcony on the 33rd floor, looking for cigarettes. I don't smoke, but I didn't want to be the party-pooper who stopped the hunt with a new friend. I agreed to step out on to the deck of the W Hotel's former Ghost Bar space (now called Altitude). It's dedicated mostly to private parties and events, and we started looking to bum a smoke off of one of the fashionable guests braving the growing storm outside.
Last week, the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) and W Hotels Worldwide brought in four nationally recognized designers and put on quite the show against the backdrop of a foggy Dallas skyline and those first torrential pours. A luncheon that afternoon gave way to a cocktail party that evening and models posed in designs from members of the CFDA Incubator program, including Ari Dein, Reece Hudson, Jonathan Simkhai and Timo Weiland. Dein's lingerie and loungewear especially deserve to be brought out from behind closed doors -- although they'd also do well behind the heavy door of one of the W's more luxurious suites.
Those fashion kids know how to throw a party. Two essentials are always provided: a competitive reason to dress up and plenty of Champagne. Balancing on a pair of five-inch platform boots I had yet to break in, I stepped outside on the deck only to be greeted by one of the designers. Timo Weiland was friendly and chatty, and his menswear collection matched his vibe: sophisticated, unpretentious and kind of flirty. Luckily, a nearby friend had a cigarette to share, so the conversation continued.
"Are those sirens?" I wondered out loud.
"No," a stunning brunette in a leather skater skirt responded. "I think that's in the music."
In the DJ booth Cuba Kapowski (I still love that moniker) was handily turning the decks with a perfect mix of standing-and-posing-mellow beats and pop-girl dance. The music at these kinds of parties doesn't always start the Soul Train line, but it's certainly the final touch of ambiance, and Kapowski more than did the job. I mention this because it was not really a sirens-and-air-horns kind of night, not from behind the decks, anyway. On cue, the rain blew sideways, the music got quiet and the sirens rang louder.
Standing among the beautiful people, I looked out to the skyline and down the street. It was a gorgeous view of the clouds and lightning, but here even the floor is glass and the glamorous scene came to an end. A security guard stepped up to the microphone with instructions I missed, and as if we'd all been through the exercise before, a line formed for one last glass of Champagne en route to the elevators.
Once in the lobby it was another trip down into the underground parking lot where folks were huddled in groups: shop girls, model agencies and media publications. It was getting warm, so I went to stand next to a young man with a hand fan who generously shared the breeze.
Like any good vanity-obsessed group, we all remembered to get that last glass of bubbly, but no one grabbed a snack. Well, almost no one. In some real what-universe-is-this? shit, the models were the only ones with food in their hands.
They were all standing together in neutral colors and perfectly draped cardigans, their flawless makeup and smooth hair somehow managing to stay unspoiled despite the growing humidity. First we watched them pose, then we watched them eat. We were jealous in both situations, I suppose.
For many who were putting on the shindig, the night went from first-time event to first-time tornado. There in the basement, without our phones and our open bar, we mingled, savoring the drinks with the knowledge that more was not on its way. We all used the same stranger's miraculously working phone to text the one number we know by heart. "Safe! At the W! I have no idea what is going on out there."
That would be the first of a few storms that would touch down among us North Texans and our neighbors. It got much worse. That night it all seemed so fun and silly. We complained about the lack of room service or the lack of foresight to grab a bottle of Moët instead of a glass.
When we were back upstairs, waiting for the elevator, looking out the wall of windows, I wondered if there was a more dangerous place to be during the storm. Without a doubt, however, between the crowd, the clothes and the temperamental hues of the sky, it was the most beautiful place to be.
When we finally came up the elevators back into the W Hotel lobby, everyone was shuffling for phones and looking for service.
Gabby Rosenberg is a make-up artist recently touted by Modern Luxury. Her voice rang out over the crowd: "Fuck this fashion, right? Can we call our loved ones?"
That vision comes back to me after a week of destruction. Our most glamorous nights can sometimes come crashing down into reality all too quickly. There, surrounded by models texting their families and Yankees calling home to try to explain the wind and many of Dallas' beautiful people calling lovers and children and best friends, I knew more than ever these nights can be such an illusion. We all know how much worse it really could have been.
And that is why from now on, I will always be grabbing the bottle. And never the glass.