- The Washington Times - Monday, November 9, 2009

It’s not every day that you’re inside a dressing room with one of the most celebrated young fashion designers in the world, but that’s the enviable place we found ourselves in Thursday night at Neiman Marcus in Mazza Gallerie, where wunderkind Jason Wu, the 20-something creator of first lady Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown presented his first Washington trunk show.

Asked if shoppers in the nation’s capital approach matters of style differently, he said, “I’m not sure there is a difference. I think women embrace fashion here, and that’s one common ground I find among women everywhere.” Mr. Wu was in his everyday uniform of jeans, blazer, custom-made shirt and tie, and shiny Christian Dior footwear.

The demure Mr. Wu swanned around the second floor of Neiman’s, shyly speaking with customers, who know him as a household name thanks to Mrs. Obama.

Like designer Isabel Toledo — another favorite of the first lady — who crafted her dress and overcoat worn at President Obama’s swearing in ceremony in January, Mr. Wu has never met his famous fan, but says that he’s excited to see they way Mrs. O has “promoted American fashion. I’m always excited to see what she’s wearing, whether it’s by me or not.”

As for Mrs. Toledo, who was also in town for an event in her honor last week, Mr. Wu has not met her either, but says her husband, artist Ruben Toledo, “is one of the best illustrators right now.”

An avid follower of culture and art, Mr. Wu is known for drawing inspiration for his collections from the unique and unusual, in most cases, “from the world outside fashion.”

His 2009 resort line was based on his reflections on the iconic “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” and for his new collection, Mr. Wu told us he relied on the stylings of filmmaker Tim Burton, the writer and producer of “one of my favorite movies” 1993’s “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Indeed, his new muse, he told us, was not the first lady, but Sally, the rag doll character from the animated film who is brought to life by a mad scientist.

However, his experimentation with the realm of fantasy does have limitations. Asked about designers using emaciated models on their runways and in advertisements, he said that his models are “perfectly healthy. I don’t look at a girl for how much they weigh, but how they present the clothes.”

Mr. Wu further explains that his collection offers “a full range” of sizes.

Head of the party

“I’m so glad it’s a party, “yelled an enthusiastic Robin Givens, the actress and former wife of boxing champ Mike Tyson, Thursday night at the Ritz Carlton in West End.

Miss Givens was the keynote speaker at a virtual hen party, where hundreds of women wined, dined and waited for their menfolk to arrive for a joint afterparty after they finished reveling in cigars and brandy at Fight Night, a guys’ guy boxing soiree.

Fight Night and its female counterpart, the Knock Out Abuse Gala, raise funds and awareness to fight domestic violence and for local shelters that help needy women and children.

Miss Givens, who has spoken out publicly through the years about her own experiences with marital violence at the hands of Mr. Tyson, told the gathering that the men at Fight Night should not be having all the fun.

“I want to get one of those Afro wigs,” she joked, while busting some moves across the stage.

We caught up with the “Boomerang” star before her speech, and asked if she felt awkward about being involved with an event that glamorized her ex-husband’s profession.

“At first, I was a little freaked out by it,” but she said she agreed to come when she realized she could help raise money and inspiration for victims of domestic violence.

We had to ask Miss Givens about her overachieving character, Darlene, from the hit 1980s show “Head of the Class.”

Do you think Darlene would ever end up working in Washington, as many ambitious honors student do?

“She very well could have, but I hope without those argyle socks,” Miss Givens said.

On a more serious note, she recounted her family’s history with abuse as a “third-generation domestic-violence victim.”

“I’m still on my healing journey,” she said.

Stressing the importance of public awareness and education about domestic violence, Miss Givens says, “in silence, abuse grows like a big monster.”

Her mission, she explains, is to talk to “on subways, in airports” about the subject to as many people as she can, especially men, who, Miss Givens stress, “must get involved.”

While Miss Givens was keen to talk (and keep talking) about her cause, country singer turned pop sensation Faith Hill was tight-lipped and sticking to the script.

Trying to save her voice, perhaps?

Miss Hill, who is married to musician Tim McGraw, was in Washington on Friday to be the luncheon speaker at Country United, a symposium sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine and the Tug McGraw Foundation at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Northwest.

Military physicians and researchers discussed at the symposium how they could work with their civilian counterparts to devise solutions for global problems, like emergency relief.

Miss Hill, through her spokesperson, refused any media interviews and gave a pro-forma speech, clearly written for her, in which she expressed condolences for the victims involved in the Fort Hood tragedy and doled out platitudes on the bravery of military personnel.

To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail [email protected]

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