Because of the amazing ridiculousness of my job, I find myself in random situations that balance the more mundane aspects of life like laundry, carpool and grocery shopping.
I’ve had quite a few “pinch me” moments including tea with Harry Connick Jr. at the St. Regis and multiple hugs from Enrique Iglesias while chatting about 80s music (he’s a fan of Yaz by the way.) I’ve also chased P. Diddy through the Artista kitchen, been pushed by Justin Timberlake’s bodyguards and averted my eyes while Jessica Simpson changed clothes during an interview, right in front of me.
It all makes for fun cocktail party fodder and is definitely a perk they don’t tell you about in journalism school.
I had another of those “this is really my life?” moments at a sublime dinner party hosted by Liz Gorman, a make-it-happen public relations girl who knows a thing or two about fashion, thanks to her mother. Evelyn Gorman is pretty much responsible for introducing exclusive and emerging labels to Houston through her legendary Mix Modern boutique. She had the exclusive on Balenciaga, dressed bold-faced names for years and generally elevated the city’s style rep.
Although she has downsized and moved to New York, Evelyn Gorman still has a presence in Houston, bringing her sharp eye and discriminating taste to 310 Rosemont. Her well-developed palate extends beyond fashion though, and I found myself sitting down to dinner at the 11-and-a-half foot pine table her father, Jack F. Carlisle, built years ago with nary a nail in sight.
Liz had already eased my fashion conscience with a missive to come comfy and soon I was swept into the graciousness of people who understand what it means to make people feel welcome. Years of working in a fashion boutique will do that.
My dinner companions included fashion designer David Peck (he is among those showing at Houston Fashion Week) and his wife Michelle; Craft salon owner Cara Crafton; Liz and her boyfriend Stephen Jones, an account service executive for the Houston Rockets; and John Gorman. After rounds of hugs came glasses of red wine and Spanish peppers sautéed in olive oil Evelyn brought all the way from New York.
As a matter of fact, all the organic fruits and vegetables were packed in the Gorman’s suitcases (husband John carried potatoes in his luggage) for the trek to Texas.
The whole veggie-import left Liz rolling her eyes a bit and reminding her mother, “We DO have vegetables here you know, Mom.”
The mozzarella that accompanied the fresh greens, basil and nectarines also made their way from NYC for the salad. Dedicated pescatarians, the Gormans wisely bought the gigantic gleaming-toothed Snapper locally, which John promptly grilled while Evelyn served everyone’s plate, encouraging us all to have a seat and bon appétit!
So it was with small green-filled vases, tea lights and a meal that was sourced primarily in New York, I listened to David describe his brush with a near Housewife of New York — Bryce Gruber (Dannon yogurt heiress and creator of Luxuryspot.com), who turned down the role on the show, but wears his designs. He has worked with Jill Zarin's inner circle, but didn’t spill any details (smart man).
He did say how he met Marc Jacobs before he got “buff” and how genuine he found him.
When conversation turned to great designers, Peck, without hesitation admitted Ralph Lauren was his favorite American designer and that he would love to follow in his footsteps. Evelyn also sang Lauren’s praises as a designer-turned-lifestyle brand, but truthfully, we all scoffed at the idea of dining at Ralph’s, his American restaurant in Paris. But, when it comes to the one who truly makes Evelyn's heart melt, well, “Alexander McQueen is my guy.”
And in that moment, our chatty table temporarily went quiet.
Watching the Gorman trio relive their time together, shopping the Paris showrooms, was a window into a life most of us will ever know. They were wistful at the memories, which were fascinating and funny. John, all 6-foot-4 of him, professed his admiration for the John Galliano showroom only to be bested by Evelyn who told us it was really the models he loved.
John, to his credit, didn’t disagree.
Things I learned during dinner
One, if you make an appointment with a famous design house in Paris (or really any showroom anywhere), be on time. Better yet, be early. Evelyn says they really like that.
Two, if you have the good fortune of Jean Paul Gaultier popping over to say hello, act cool.
Three, be confident. Walk into the Comme des Garcons showroom knowing that you WILL walk out with an order.
Four, never take it for granted. The Gormans definitely don’t.
We did talk a lot of fashion. After all, Peck studied at Parsons Paris School of Art+Design and launched his line in 2006 and Crafton is a veteran of New York Fashion Week as a member of the Didier Malige for the Number 4 Hair Care team that styled for designer Juan Carlos Obando. She spilled that she is heading back to New York in September for Fashion Week again and that of course, turned the conversation to Houston Fashion Week.
The buzz around the table definitely centered on the dozen of Lynn Wyatt’s couture gowns that will be displayed in Neiman Marcus windows during the week-long event (Oct. 11-15).
It was good to know there was also sincere social consciousness at the table too.
Peck uses sustainable practices in his design process and he works with charities like Living Water International. John Gorman is hanging with some pretty heavy hitters like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former President Bill Clinton, actor Jeffrey Wright and Tiffany’s to build roads in Sierra Leone and mine ethically. This of course gave me another reason to love those little blue boxes that much more.
Turns out, Michelle worked at the United Nations and dealt with issues surrounding Sierra Leone. It was a lovely full-circle moment for sure.
My only regret of the evening? I didn’t climb the stairs to see Liz’s breathtaking collection of shoes.
Hopefully I was a good enough dinner party guest and she’ll ask me back. I hear those shoes are better than canoodling with Enrique.