The models writhed in giant cages, arching their backs and wrapping their fingers around the wire fencing. They wore fur coats over bralettes and g-strings and lounged on vintage car hoods like pinups.
These were the working models at Marc Jacobs’ much-anticipated party Thursday night celebrating the launch of Gloss, a book of photographer Chris Von Wangenheim’s provocative portraits of models in the ’70s: Grace Jones naked among a pair of panthas; Gia Carangi standing naked behind a wire fence; Susan Sarandon topless beneath a fur coat, holding a switchblade.
The non-working models paraded around Tunnel, an old railroad terminal and former nightclub in Manhattan, in furs and sequins and other attire suggested in the party’s invitation, with its all-caps enforcement of a “STRICT DRESS TO KILL CODE.” Guests rose to the occasion with “JERRY HALL SIDE-SWEPT HAIR” and “PATTI [sic] HEARST SYMBIONESE LIBERATION ARMY GEAR.” There were various interpretations of “ROLLERINA CHIC” and “GRACE JONES BUTCH REALNESS.” Others were outfitted in “MIRRORED AVIATORS, METAL MESH, COWL NECKLINE HALTERS.”
The non-model attendees strutted from the bar to the dance floor, their shoulders thrown back and arms swaying, as if they were on Marc Jacobs’ runway. Regardless of who you were—supermodel Coco Rocha, legendary celebrity stylist June Ambrose, Solange Knowles, or a 20-year-old student at Parsons, all of whom were in attendance—the main reason for coming to the party, it seemed, was to have your picture taken.
The non-working models and fashion insiders and random men in police costumes sprawled out on the car hoods, pouting and posing for some camera—any camera.
Most photos were taken on iPhones and posted to Instagram. When the bigger lenses came around, guests launched themselves on a pile of tires or up against the venue’s brick wall, perhaps hoping they’d wind up on Patrick McMullan’s party-picture website the next day.
Among the bigger lenses was Maripol, the pioneering polaroid photographer and ‘80s celebrity stylist behind Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” look. Several long strands of pearls were draped over her plunging, leopard print halter top.
“I invented the selfie polaroid,” she told me, though she wasn’t among the hired help. “I’m enjoying,” she said in her heavy French accent, as Donna Summer shouted ‘Hot Stuff’ through the speakers.
Jacobs, I later learned, hobnobbed briefly with VIP guests around this time. But he violated his own dress code, going largely unnoticed in nondescript jeans and the same black “Gloss” t-shirt that the food and drink staff wore.
MILK and Skim Burley, two of the five drag “Dairy Queens” in New York City, introduced themselves at the bar as “transvestite prostitutes.”
MILK, who wore a one-piece nude suit fastened with floppy tinsel breasts and a floppy tinsel penis (“aren’t they fabulous?”), said I might recognize her from season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Skim, a professional ballerina, wore a tinsel wig and a lace bra and pantie ensemble, which, she confessed, she stole from “some homeless slut off the street.” When pressed for details about their clients, MILK made gleeful circles with her hips and marveled at her bobbing appendages. “Oprah’s a huge client,” she boasted. “That’s actually why she went off the air. There was a huge scandal. But we have tons of money. That’s why we look soooooo rich.”
Stella Rose, a 28-year-old fashion designer, looked equally fabulous in a bejeweled crop top, oversized sunglasses, and an oversized floppy hat that she’d pinned back at the brim. She said she didn’t know too many people besides “all the drag queens” (roughly half of the party) and “the club kids.”
Indeed, Michael Musto was there in a sequin-embroidered jacket. And Connie Fleming, the black transgender model, was making the rounds. Later in the evening, Amanda Lepore, arguably the most well-known transgender woman in America next to Caitlyn Jenner, arrived in sequin pasties and a white fur stole.
The dress code had included “RIDING IN ON A WHITE HORSE,” but perhaps Jacobs anticipated this look would be particularly hard to pull off.
In its place was a large, shimmering, apparently ceramic white horse behind the bar. When I pointed this out to Bobby Bandera, a self-described “hedge-funder” who grew up in Queens and looks like a younger Woody Allen in a suit, he reminded me that Bianca Jagger was a “champagne socialist.” But he said he had a “high enough social IQ to know not to discuss political issues at these parties.”
On the other hand, Caleb Thomas, a 20-year-old model, was eager to talk politics. He said he’s worried Donald Trump is going to win the 2016 election. Of all the candidates, he likes “that guy Billie” best.
“I only know him from Tumblr, but he seems like he’s really for the people,” Thomas said, referring to Bernie Sanders.
Thomas had attended the Gloss book-signing earlier that day and said Marc Jacobs complimented him on his eyeliner. “He was like, ‘Yo it’s super cute. Come to the party.’” Thomas was really flattered. “I knew other people who could get me in though,” he said with a smile. “I’m a finesser.”
Meanwhile, a 20-year-old Parsons student was handing out cigarettes to several women and gushing about how the party harkened back to a darker, grittier, sexier New York. He had come from a Dior party earlier that night which was “more professional... Marc Jacobs doesn’t give a shit if people smoke inside.”
An exceptionally pretty woman asked him for a light and introduced herself as Lana Ogilvie, a model and a jewelry designer. (She was the first black model signed to an exclusive CoverGirl contract in 1992.)
“Chris Von Wangenheim was one of the most genius photographers of his era,” she said, as though she were reading from the party’s press release. “His images were a fashion statement when he made them and they’re still a fashion statement today, and they need to be celebrated.”
Everyone finished their cigarettes, followed each other on Instagram, and went their separate ways.
The lights turned on around midnight, scaring sequined revelers out the door and onto the West Side Highway. Many clung to their champagne flutes; others swigged from bottles of Veuve Clicquot.
One young man had told me earlier in the night about a fashion show that “was not to be missed.” Alas, my colleague would be attending in my place.
Outside, his holographic mosaic bib was fogging up in the wet air. He stepped out in the rain and sauntered down the highway, shouting over his shoulder some advice regarding my colleague and the show: “Girl, you better cut the bitch!”