The mood at the Bryant Park tents Thursday night was different. Special. Tommy Hilfiger’s runway show was the last ever to happen at this location, and the emotion was palpable: When we first walked into the venue, the D.J. was running a string of melancholy songs like “Secret Garden” by Springsteen and “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, with a little Neil Young and Annie Lennox thrown in for an extra sense of angst. We turned to each other and said, “We’re not missing something, are we? Fashion Week isn’t over FOREVER, right?”
But then the atmosphere switched from large-scale wake to Graduation Day: The D.J. busted out “Sweet Caroline,” which no one with a beating heart can resist. During the iconic “BUM BUM BUM” section of the chorus, the music cut out so that Fern Mallis could conduct the photo pit in loud, joyous karaoke — which was rewarded by a raucous round of applause. And then, when the lights went down in the Tent for the very last time, the photogs yelled, en masse, “THANK YOU, BRYANT PARK,” and then a very organized, very loud, “FRONT ROW, UNCROSS YOUR LEGS,” their traditional refrain. Everyone clapped. For a second, it felt like we were all going to turn to our neighbors, give them a hug, promise to write over the summer, and maybe solve world peace.
The front row almost seemed beside the point, but Tommy delivered on that count as well. There’s no better way to close out a week, much less a venue, than with Ed Westwick and his inescapable Chuck Bassitude. When a reporter asked him if being on Gossip Girl makes him feel pressure to dress up in public, Westwick cracked, “I actually feel pressure to underdress, since I’m so overdressed all the time!” Yet he looked deliciously Bass-ian in his pink shirt, and his entire demeanor throughout the show was that familiar narrow-eyed, just-smelled-rancid-caviar, amused-yet-nefarious carriage that we know and love from Gossip Girl. Contrast that to his castmate Penn Badgley, who sat at the other end of the row (feud brewing, maybe? Or does Tommy just like the idea of CW-flavored bookends?) acting irritated that the press would rather talk to Chuck Bass than Dan Humphrey. Can you blame them? HE’S CHUCK BASS. Although possibly, Penn was just channeling his character, as looking put-upon and tense-jawed is exactly what stupid Dan would do in this situation.
Westwick seemed to enjoy his time in the front row, using it to chat up Rosario Dawson — in an ill-advised tight white skirt, but glowing skin — and the newly brunette Hayden Panettiere. Penn, on the other hand, seemingly spoke to no one. Not Ed, not Hayden — who was either giving Penn a run for his money in terms of hair product used, or just needed to give her tresses a scrub — not Rosario, and certainly not his neighbor, Ashley Olsen, who looked beautiful despite wearing khakis that seemed a bit adjacent to Mom Jeans. Ashley and Penn sat ramrod straight, avoiding so much as grazing arms, as if each was sure the other carried the plague. We bet Ashley wishes she’d been seated down Ed Westwick Way, where there was a party brewing during the show: While he whispered approvingly to Hayden, Rosario grooved and sang along to whatever came on — including, at one point, Hall and Oates. We don’t know if Ashley and Penn hate each other or what, but when you’re front-row at a fashion show and you’re acting like you’re in line at the DMV, something is woefully wrong.
After the show, Tommy came out for his bow and produced a microphone. “Thank you, Fern Mallis,” he said. “And thank you, Bryant Park, for hosting us for eighteen years.” With that, “Empire State of Mind” blew up the speakers, and Fern Mallis, looking emotional, told a camera crew she was “so incredibly proud.” That was our last image of a show at Bryant Park’s main tent: a teeming mass of humanity spilling past Fern Mallis, sparkling under the lights, looking like a proud mother watching her baby flee the nest. Onward and uptown we go. Unless we missed a memo and Fashion Week really IS canceled forever, in which case, shhh — please don’t tell our bosses.