When Tom Ford asked Becca Cason Thrash to host a dinner celebrating the debut of his new River Oaks District boutique, she knew she wanted to plan something out of the ordinary. So the Houston social dynamo convinced The Menil Collection to open the iconic Renzo Piano space for the evening and created one long table, with flickering votive candles, that ran nearly the length of the building.
The result was one of the fall social season's most glamorous affairs for Houston's fashion pack, most of whom dressed in Tom Ford designs that left Tom Ford International chairman Domenico de Sole, who attended with his wife, Eleanor, marveling at the scene.
"For me the real discovery was the Menil museum. I've heard a lot about it. It's really beautiful," said de Sole, who also serves as chairman of the board of directors at Sotheby's. "Tonight is very special."
De Sole was no doubt also over the moon as sales zoomed at the new boutique, as guests, who paid $1,000 each to attend the store opening and dinner, rushed to buy Tom Ford attire for the evening.
The look was mostly black, Ford's favorite color, as Vivian Wise drew admiring glances in a plunging black tuxedo and Diane Lokey Farb looked chic in an embroidered black cocktail dress. Others took a more colorful route as Sara Dodd sparkled in a gold sequined cocktail dress, while Duyen Nguyen shone is a silver mirrored mini-dress and hubby, Marc Nguyen, looked hip in a floral print jacket. Lucas Somoza, who flew in from Paris, wore a custom-made purple Tom Ford dinner jacket and a bearded stubble in homage to the designer.
Thrash wowed the crowd in a form-fitting black gown that Ford personally selected for her. He couldn't attend the dinner because he is directing a movie in London, but plans a visit. "Tom is a native of Texas, so he promised me that he will be in Houston sometime soon," de Sole said.
Just as she did at the 2011 gala she hosted in Paris for the American Friends of the Louvre, Thrash created a dramatic scene with one long table for the 130 guests, although Houston fire marshals made her divide the table slightly at intervals for safety considerations. A fire marshal stayed on the premises to watch over the flickering candles, which most museums ban at such occasions as a potential fire hazard.
Waiters clad in all black served a delectable meal that included a first course of dill cured Atlantic salmon from Pax Americana, grilled feta brined chicken from Helen Greek Food and Wine as the main course, and warm chocolate cake from Bistro Menil as dessert, with a liberal selection of wines and Dom Perignon.
De Sole said the brand has been eyeing Houston for a while and committed to the store after meeting with Dene Oliver, CEO of OliverMcMillan, developer of River Oaks District. "He is a big Tom Ford client. We met him in New York at our store," de Sole said."Houston is a great market. It's important for us to be here."
"When Tom and I started this journey nine years ago, our goal was to be the first luxury brand for the 21st century," de Sole told the crowd. "And tonight, right here, we really feel like we have accomplished what we set out to do. We believe it is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
The evening raised more than $125,000 for the Menil.
On hand to celebrate were Menil director Josef Helfenstein and wife, Dorothee, Menil board of trustees president Janet Hobby, John Thrash, Lucinda and Javier Loya, Sheridan Williams, Janet Gurwitch, Lisa Holthouse, Phoebe Tudor, Rosemarie Johnson, Richard and Jana Fant, Gregory Fourticq, Courtney and Bo Hopson, Elizabeth Petersen, and River Oaks District CEO Oliver.
Winging in from Rome was Bulgari international communications director Stephane Gerschel and, from New York, Janis Cecil, director at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art.