Wednesday, September 05, 2001

A Gallant Gant Event

The red carpet and velvet ropes clearly identified the hot event of Wednesday, September 5th in New York City. Once walking past the TV crews inside the new global flagship store for GANT, I chatted with the first guest I recognized. Dr. Ruth Westheimer looked delightful in her navy blue dress with splashes of pink flowers and commented on the importance of the evening. "I wouldn't have come if it was just a store opening, but when you attach it to a good cause I'm there. I want the majestic Hudson to stay clean for my grandchildren."

And what, exactly, does GANT have to do with the mighty Hudson River pray tell? In addition to acting as a benefit and raising awareness for the Waterkeeper Alliance, partial proceeds from all September sales will go to the Alliance. As a result, their 5th Avenue and Soho store openings were with much fanfare and approval from many a celebrity.

I sampled one of the rich hors d'oeuvres as they passed by and chatted with Cool Site of the Day's Mike Corso and his wife, matrimonial attorney Donna Abrams. He introduced me to another one of the evening's stars, GANT CEO Mr. Ari Hoffman, who was very pleased to be able to give back to the environment in such a way. Bart Forbes, architect with Forbes Shey was beaming as he surveyed the results of his company's work. They worked in conjunction with Swedish firm Arkarius on the uptown store and did the entirety of the Soho store-in six months no less! Eric West, who was a key player in both projects.

Champagne was flowing and I went a bit further into the store where I chatted a bit with Bobby Kennedy Jr., who is the founder and president of the Water Keeper Alliance and chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper. He also started a bottled water business,, to raise money and awareness for the clean water movement. Keeper Springs donates all profits, after taxes to the Water Keeper Alliance.

I also met two attorneys who work with him on various cases: Chris Seeger and Stephen Weiss of Seeger Weiss LLP. They apparently almost had a Web site, done by the infamous Rare Medium, but the site was never completed.

Andie McDowell and her adorable little girl were holding court, seated very comfortably on a low white chair sipping water. She was beaming and very gracious when she told me that she loves "Bobby and supports everything he does." Academy Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden and her husband Thaddaeus Schell and I had an extended chat about protecting the Hudson and their work. Their down-to-earth natures and impassioned thoughts on the terrible treatment of the river are compelling and could inspire activism in anyone. Thaddaeus told me a bit about his company, Harden House Productions, and their most recent project of all the Behind-the-Scenes footage for "Pollack."

Many of Bobby's friends were there in support of his cause and the next staunch supporter I met was Citigroup Investments Private Equity partner Stephen Hartt. When the room reached critical mass Ari took the stage and spoke about his enthusiasm for the Waterkeeper Alliance and how they are thrilled to be a part of this effort. His pride was especially apparent when he chastised the other great clothing merchants for not maintaining creativity while pursuing business. Hillary Clinton couldn't make it to the event, but Ari read a letter she wrote with her support for the cause as well. Marcia Gay Harden took the stage next in a sexy red leather dress and also spoke passionately about the Alliance. She introduced the next speaker with the praising acknowledgement "that he would surely win in the Best Speaker in the Environmental Category." Without further ado, Mr. Kennedy stepped up to the platform.

Bobby spoke for about twenty minutes recounting the history of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the terrible situations that were occurring that prompted its formation and future efforts. He will be heading down to North Carolina (where Ms. McDowell resides) on Thursday to fight the Smithfield Farms farmers. Their 1600 factory farms inhuman and apparently disgusting treatment have put 22,000 pig farmers out of business. Mr. Kennedy became more impassioned as he spoke, not a bad tactic when you're dealing with typical cocktail party attendees, and ended by introducing the Peconic Bay Waterkeeper, Kevin McAllister whose toothy grin and tan indicated a life of enjoyment in his hard work of keeping the Long Island Sound waters safe and clean and Hudson River Waterkeeper, Alex Matthiessen.

When the speeches ended I chatted with Mr. Elliot Gant, founder of the corporation and fashion designer Joseph Abboud, both of whom were cutting a fine figure and looking exceptionally stylish in their finery.

The shuttle bus to Soho was about to leave, but not before all the beautiful people had a chance to swirl around the showroom's three floors, sip champagne and cocktails, enjoy the rich passed hors d'oeuvres and chat glibly about sundry topics.