Pret-a-Reporter

Inside The Neiman Marcus and Co Soiree at Tony Duquette's Beverly Hills Estate

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Justin Kern, Ken Downing, Stephanie Danan and Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei and Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing were among the guests celebrating the brand's lavish looks amidst an even more extravagant backdrop.

With gold brocades, feather embellishments, fringed and beaded details, the over-the-top high-neck blouses, ruffled sleeves, and flounced skirts the L.A.-based designers of the label Co displayed on Thursday evening called for an equally elaborate back drop. Luckily, Tony Duquette's Beverly Hills estate, home of the late designer's "more-is-more" aesthetic, was available for the evening. 

Built in 1949 by the famed artist, interior decorator and Hollywood set designer, the home has been a favorite haunt for fashion houses through the years, including Gucci, which tapped the museum-like home for the brand's menswear campaign starring Tom Hiddleston, as well as Co co-designers Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern, who shot their 2017 resort collection at the landmark.

On Thursday, however, the married couple selected looks from their fall 2016 and spring 2017 collections, as well as their resort line, to showcase during a dinner party to celebrate their new shop-in-shop at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of the retailer, hosted the evening (and styled the looks with Tony Duquette jewels). Guests included Marisa Tomei (who starred in a short film for the brand, alongside Kern's former roommate, Aubrey Plaza), Clare Vivier, jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth and stylists Jessica de Ruiter, Petra Flannery (Amy Adams, Emma Stone) and Ryan Hastings (Rooney Mara, Rosamund Pike). A dinner table was set up outside, and everyone dined on chef Minh Phan's signature porridges, delicious mixes of grains and duck or short ribs. 

"There is definitely a fantasy aspect to Co," said Danan of the evening's rich atmosphere and offerings. Hutton Wilkinson, Duquette's longtime business partner who took over his Dawnridge property after the designer's death in 1999, was eager to show off the fantasy decor, too, giving tours to anyone who asked (or who just happened to be in proximity).

He gave a lengthy tour to Tomei, who was dressed in a pajama-like two-piece brocade ensemble by the brand, explaining the origins of the oversize seashell planters ("they were made for musicals for MGM"), how the enormous chandelier in the backyard came together (Wilkinson reapplied the purple crystals by hand after it was neglected by a previous owner and then returned to the estate), as well as the beautiful necklaces on display known as, "The Talismans of Power." "I'm down to 24," he said of the dwindling collection. "We used to give them away as party favors but we had to stop." 

 

A 28-foot abstract sculpture in the backyard, hundreds of paintings covering every inch of wall space (many painted by Duquette's wife, Elizabeth) and quirky decorative pieces — including a stuffed, crown-wearing cockatoo housed in a glass case — contributed to the luxurious, Old Hollywood glamour of the home — making it all the more appropriate for the L.A.-based designers, each of whom had prior ties to the movie biz. Kern, a former screenwriter, and Danan, a former producer, have kept the spirit of the industry alive in their designs; their knack for location scouting is particularly useful in finding inspirations that encapsulate that "magic of show business" feel, they said.

When it comes to the main focus of their clothing, though, Danan says it's about "empowerment." "We’re definitely trying to offer clothes that are an extension of what women are feeling today, which is more of an edited wardrobe, a more thoughtful price point and an approach that is more fitting to their own lives," she said.

"[It’s also inspired] a little bit by my career in the film industry," she added. "I made my own money, I don’t come from a trust fund, I had to be self-made, and that girl wants to shop an edited and curated environment but she’s also thoughtful about how she spends her money." 

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