Friday, September 19, 2008

Chicago's Private Screening and Fete With Gilt Groupe

The Duchess of Devonshire was the quintessential It girl of her day, exuding beauty, elegance and style. On Wednesday, September 17th, Gilt Groupe and Paramount Vantage hosted a private screening of the film The Duchess starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes in Chicago. The post party immediately followed the film and was held at the James Hotel and was hosted by our city’s It girls, Susu Block, Lisa Cotten, Kate Fitzgerald, Stephanie Harris and Jennifer Kasten and Gilt’s founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. The clean space was wiped clean of any 18th century decadence and called for a modern, chic aesthetic with hues of reds and lush burgundies for the seating in lush textures like leather and velvets. Guests sipped on Moët Chandon Champagne and Casa Lapostolle Wines, as well as a specialty cocktail and Factio favorite, the Duchess Blossom, infused with Belvedere Pomerancza, Elderflower Cordial and grapefruit juice. We enjoyed an array of tantalizing treats including smoked salmon canapé with lemon crème fraiche, tuna tartare, and truffled goat cheese and mushroom tarts. As the party started to wind down, guests left with a VIP Gilt Groupe black card, which gives access to their invite only website that sells luxury women's, men's, children's merchandise at up to 70% off retail. For more information visit

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Susu Block, Alexis Maybank

We caught up with party-goers to find out all things Duchess!

If The Duchess Was Alive Today, She Would Want from Gilt Groupe for Fall...

“A feathered Dennis Basso cocktail dress or a feathered Alessandro Del’ Acqua bolero would be a top pick given her pension for plumes. I also think she would love to embellish her looming coiffure with a Kwiat diamond brooch that could double as a fetching hair accessory.”
Alexis Maybank, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer,
Gilt Groupe

“Kwiat diamonds, J. Mendel fur muffs, Anthony Nak chandelier earrings, Made her Think necklaces, brooches and feather bracelets, Marie Chantal and Lucy Sykes dresses for her daughters.”

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Founder and Chief Merchandise Officer, Gilt Groupe

On Duchess-Era Hair:

“I love the perfect, tightly packed curls. I want to touch them and watch each piece spring back up into original form. The curls make everyday look like an elegant, black tie affair. Also, without bangs, layers, etc. a woman's complete face is exposed, revealing the true and natural beauties from the bunch. I want to know how they pulled these hairstyles off in a time when styling tools and products couldn't have been available. Please enlighten me with your findings!”
Ali Pesche, Jewelry Designer, Ali Precious,

Ali Pesche and Gilt Groupe's Shan-Lyn Ma

On The Duchess of Devonshire:
"The Duchess was a leader not a follower in fashion. And she used her style to reflect her strong spirit no matter what challenges she faced in her private life."

Abby Baine Dunn, PR Director, Blast Marketing

"One of my large, bold necklaces would be perfect for Georgiana – keeping the wearer in mind, I’d design one of an exaggerated size to reflect her colorful, larger-than-life personality."
Lisa Cotten, Jewelry Designer, Host

On The Film:
“I adored the sweeping footage of the castles, the grand old estates and the English countryside. I think the movie emphasized the responsibilities to family and duties present in that era; while not quite as onerous today, responsibilities do increase with age and (as Georgiana showed) a women’s to her family and children are still just as important.”

Alexis Maybank, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Gilt Groupe

"My favorite part was when Georgiana returned to London after months away, to see her children run into her arms…as a mother, there’s no better feeling."
Susu Block, Host and Founder of Glow PR

On The Clothes:

“I think this movie deserves to win an Oscar for Best Costume Design. I absolutely loved the fashion in the movie and Keira Knightley has an amazing presence and looked stunning in each of her elaborate couture ensembles. I wish I could have touched the luxurious fabrics of all her gowns and I admired the accessories, especially the constantly-changing hair styles and jewelry. Two centuries later, women seem to love accessorizing just as much as they did back then. Keira Knightley says in the movie that fashion is one of the few ways that women can express themselves and sadly, back then that was probably true. Fortunately today woman have managed to push the glass ceiling upwards. However, even though women have come a long way in 200 years, I do believe that the glass ceiling still exists for us. It isn’t easy being a woman, not then, not today!”

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Founder and Chief Merchandise Officer, Gilt Groupe

“I liked the Duchess's campaign trail outfits, when she wore a fun, orangey mink— I read that she wore that because the Whig's party colors were orange and blue. I also loved this pearly grey dress she wore in the scene where the duke declares: "let your husband admire this in greater detail."
Jenny Berg, Associate Editor, Biz Bash

The corsets! They're just so sexy. No other piece showcases a body part the same way. Dolce and Gabbana would agree, I'm sure. The hats were pretty fabulous, too.”
Julie Bensman, Fashion Assistant,
Michigan Avenue Magazine

Jeff Corney and Julie Bensman

On Men's Fashion:
“I would have to say it would be the shoes with the bows and the knickers. I feel that in over 200 years men’s fashion has evolved tremendously, however, the same components still remain. I am a big fan of the Belgian loafer which must have evolved from the shoes the Duke of Devonshire wore, obviously the bows has shrunk as well as the heel. In addition, shorts for men (whether alone or as a suit) is such a trend. Designers such as Thom Brown, Tim Hamilton and Band of Outsiders has made shorts de riguer in every mans wardrobe. My least would have to be the tights, but I even have a difficult time with socks in general.”
Christian Leone,
Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Gilt Groupe

Christian Leone (pictured right)
*All photos by Kari Skaflen

“I’m a very theatrical person (obviously!), so I love the drama of 18th century men’s clothing. I especially love the long, tailored top coats.
D. Graham Kostic, Fashion Associate, Modern Luxury Magazines

On Today’s Empress of Fashion:
"When I think of fashion that is still widely imitated and continues to set trends today, I would have to say that Jackie Kennedy Onassis continues to be an “Empress” with her being effortlessly chic, her iconic looks and her classic glamour.”
Alexis Maybank, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Gilt Groupe

“I have always admired Cate Blanchett’s style. She has a royal, elegant quality to her. She always appears graceful, elegant and glamorous and she tends to gravitate to wearing some of my favorite designers including Valentino, Dries Van Noten and Balenciaga. I genuinely admire her sense of style and would not hesitate to call her an Empress of Fashion.”
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Founder and Chief Merchandise Officer, Gilt Groupe

"I would have to say today’s Empress of Fashion is Vivienne Westwood... Dramatic! Exciting! Shocking!”
D. Graham Kostic, Fashion Associate, Modern Luxury Magazines

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