It is always somewhat of a debate as to when summer in the Hamptons officially begins. Memorial Day, the weather can be iffy, and the weekend always seems to arrive just as one is finally starting to enjoy spring; by July 4th, Route 27 is a virtual parking lot and the crowds can border on unbearable. The event schedule also inevitably plays a part. All you really need is that one fete that proves enough of a draw for the critical masses - the usual notables and tastemakers - and then, that's it, the Hamptons have begun. And who better to inaugurate the summer than Douglas Hannant and Frederick Anderson?
On the second Friday in June, the designer Hannant and his business partner Anderson threw a Summer Kick-off dinner party at Wainscott hot-spot Georgica. By 8:30, the cocktails were flowing, and the bar area was bustling with several dozen of the duo's nearest and dearest. Among those in the powerhouse crowd: CNN's Alina Cho, stunning and glowing in a white eyelet Douglas dress and sporting chic rose cut diamond earrings and a ring from Turkish designer Gilan; Project Runway's Nina Garcia; Annie Churchill; Judith Giuliani; Fern Mallis; Bettina Zilkha; Pamela Gross; Somers Farkas; Vanessa Weiner Von Bismarck; Meredith Melling Burke; Kim Vernon; Leslie Stevens; and Diana Hsu, who had just returned from a wedding in Jamaica.
After sampling some deliciously eclectic hors d'oeuvres (my personal favorite? Pulled pork over a sweet potato pancake, better known among non-pork eaters as a latke), the chatty crowd finally made its way to the seated dinner area, where we were greeted by a three-course menu created by executive chefs Robert Hesse and Seth Levine. The signature Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad was a refreshing, summery palate cleanser, while the choice of entrees was of the heartier variety: roast chicken, roasted Chilean Sea Bass, or Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto. My dinner partner Jeff Slonim and I could not have been more thrilled that there was an actual pasta option - which there almost never is at these type of seated occasions - so, easy decision for me. And, indeed, it did not disappoint - the risotto was creamy and flavorful, and the ingredients were fresh and delicious.
For dessert time, there was a little surprise in store. The entire restaurant stopped and serenaded the designer, who was presented with an artful tower of chocolate cupcakes, complete with sparklers, for his birthday. Douglas and Frederick thanked all for making the trip out East on a traffic-filled Friday, but really, the amazing turnout was only to be expected. What has always distinguished the House of Hannant, if you will, from so many other designers, is that their first and foremost priority has always been the customer. To be sure, they know how to throw the chicest of parties, but most of those in their social network also happen to be among their most loyal clientele. Later that week, Hannant presented his runway resort collection at the Plaza to many of the same crowd, and then some. Afterwards, guests were invited to join the designer for a champagne celebration at his Geoffrey Bradfield designed boutique, where loyal customers like Michelle Herbert, Janna Bullock, and Alexandra Lebenthal already began placing their orders. Aspiring designers should take note: this is how to build a brand with both prestige and longevity.
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