The Louis Vuitton bag was a predictable accoutrement hanging on the arm of Nicky Hilton Rothschild at the opening of the Winter Show Thursday night.
For decades, this Champagne-and-gravlax preview of art, antiques and jewelry at the Park Avenue Armory has been New York’s first big upper-crust charity event of the year.
The provenance of her pencil skirt was another matter, signaling the generational shifts in style for doyennes. “It was $75 from Instagram — the brand Choosy,” which tracks trends online to decide to what to make, she said.
At that moment, Rothschild — who’s designing a spring shoe collection with French Sole — was standing before a stone sculpture of a cat by Beniamino Bufano at the booth of James Infante. It had a $24,000 price tag.
“I’m obsessed with cats,” she said. “I am the proud owner of two cats, and that is a very cool cat. Can you take my picture with it?”
She admired the cat’s painted eyelashes and the smooth roundness of the carving, making for a corpulent physique.
“One of my cats is quite plump,” Rothschild said.
Despite the similarity, she didn’t pounce on buying the sculpture. “I already have a Lalique cat,” she told Infante and her “date” for the evening, Linda Kaufman, a friend from Norfolk, Virginia, who for years has walked around with her at the fair, helping her acquire a porcelain lamp and some china.
Another real estate heir, Larry Milstein, didn’t arrive with a seasoned collector to guide him, but the suit he was wearing drew him into conversation with one.
It was a bespoke pinstripe by InStitchu, and the collector was Jerry Lauren, for years the head of men’s design at Ralph Lauren.
“You look fabulous,” Lauren told Milstein, before dispensing the wisdom he’d assembled collecting weather vanes and buying art by Bill Traylor and Basquiat (which he keeps as the wallpaper on his mobile phone).
“Try for the best,” Lauren said. “Make sure you’re looking at something that’s real. Get to know as much as the dealer.”
Milstein is convinced that the Winter Show — which benefits the East Side House Settlement in the Bronx — can attract younger buyers. He speaks with authority as the co-founder of PRZM, a consulting firm that specializes in helping brands reach millennials and Generation Z.
“Especially Gen Z, they’re interested in luxury goods and sustainability, so they like the idea of collecting second-hand.”
Make no mistake, though, this experience isn’t like thrifting in Brooklyn. Bouquets of sweet peas and lillies were everywhere, along with works of art artfully displayed, including a portrait of Gertrude Vanderbilt.
“I love coming here and seeing beautiful things,” Rothschild said.
The downtown party scene also had its first big social event of the year Thursday with the opening of the International Center of Photography’s new digs at 84 Ludlow St. Actress Marisa Tomei and BMX athlete Nigel Sylvester were among the throngs viewing photographs of the Lower East Side and hip-hop culture.
“I spend all my time in this neighborhood, so it’s special to have ICP here,” said artist Nichole Washington.
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