Predictions for Post-Tragedy Benefits

September 27, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

As event planners everywhere are wondering about how the event style will change in the wake of the September 11 attacks, a The New York Times story offers some insights from the people behind some of Manhattan's typically glitzy gala benefits.

“I think coming out of this disaster first of all is a serious sense of charity,” Paul Wilmot, founder of fashion and society PR firm Paul Wilmot Communications, told the paper. “Instead of 'Oh, I've got to go to this dinner at the Pierre--so-and-so, my friend, is chair'...I think you'll find people will be much more dedicated, will stop looking at these things with such a jaundiced eye.“ Another Wilmot prediction: “Recent events will take away some of the fluff that surrounds these charitable evenings.” New York society figure Debbie Bancroft suggested her crowd would be attending “quieter, more meaningful events.”

One of the country's premier style mavens, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, added, “People are not feeling like a big-time extravaganza, but they will go out....Parties will be more low-key. They will be very straightforward, appropriate for the time--less about the social connotations and more about the charity.”

The question for the people who actually plan the events is, how do those feelings translate into appropriate invitations, decorations, themes and menus? For the events in the immediate future, fancy dress and elaborate d?cor are out, and donating funds to relief-related causes is in. The New Yorkers for Children benefit at Cipriani 42nd Street on September 19--“the season's most feverishly anticipated evening,” according to Times scribe Ruth La Ferla--went on with more subdued decor than what had been planned. (Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn offered an interesting view of the event.)

The other big question is how the repercussions will affect the nonprofits that need the proceeds of such benefits to do their work--and sometimes to survive. If benefactors are donating to relief-related funds, will they still give money to other causes? And if big, flashy benefits are passe, will planners still be able to entice guests to come to the more subdued events that replace them?

Posted 09.27.01

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