On Saturday night, Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn posted an odd personal message on her "On The Runway" blog:
Last evening around 6 o’clock I was on the phone with Tommy Hilfiger, thanking him for some flowers he’d sent, when I mentioned how much I liked his girlfriend Dee Ocleppo, whom I met over dinner at his house in Greenwich. “We’re getting married in 45 minutes!” Hilfiger suddenly announced, plainly a happy man. The couple was supposed to marry last August at Hilfiger’s home on Mustique, but life got a little complicated, and they decided to put things off for a bit. They certainly managed to keep last night’s wedding, presumably in Greenwich, a secret. She’s lovely, he’s lucky, and warmest congratulations to both.
Should a fashion critic really be accepting flowers from a major fashion designer whose shows she regularly covers? Or using her Times blog to offer him "warmest congratulations" on his wedding? Seems to us that critics ought to to be avoiding those kinds of warm, fuzzy interactions with the industry leaders whose designs they're supposed to be reviewing.
But who knows, maybe the flowers were just Hilfiger's way of saying thanks for the wet kiss Horyn planted in last week's "T" Magazine, in the form of an endless profile with the clever title, "Still Tommy After All These Years." The dinner at Hilfiger's house was well-chronicled in Horyn's glowing account of the 57-year-old designer's life and loves. You read it and decide if Horyn was awed at all by the 25-acre mansion, the dover sole, the grilled steak, the three chefs preparing dinner....it's hard to tell:
Once the gate opened, it was a short run up a tree-lined cobblestone drive to the Georgian-style mansion, its entrance washed in light and big pumpkins set on the steps. The publicist stood in the doorway, her arms clenched against the chill. Hilfiger himself was in the library, poking a blazing fire. The paneled room, which contained a cracked leather sofa, a leopard-print club chair, an opened bottle of Montrachet on the coffee table and a Warhol of Liz Taylor above the mantel, was warm and cozy. And that was no doubt the effect that Hilfiger, dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt, hoped to produce with his fire, except that it had become a furnace. Ocleppo, who was standing behind the sofa, the sleeves of her dark sweater pushed up to her elbows, said that maybe the room was too hot. Their eyes met briefly, and then Ocleppo went to open a terrace door as Hilfiger sought out the club chair and his wineglass and casually mentioned the music that was playing throughout the house. "I hope you don’t mind an evening of the Beatles," he said.
Apparently, she didn't.
UPDATE: A reader points out that it's commonplace for fashion-industry reporters to receive flowers from the companies they cover. That may be -- but it's important to understand that the Times has a strict policy against accepting gifts from any news sources with a cash value of more than $25. What follows is a December 9, 2008 email from publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to the Times staff reminding them of that policy:
To the Staff,
As in years past, the holiday season serves as a good time to remind ourselves of our Company’s policy on receiving gifts.
We are not permitted to accept gifts with a value greater than $25. While this sum is low, it is intentionally so, for we must avoid the misunderstanding that a gift given (and accepted in all innocence) creates some benefit for the person who gave it. If you receive any gift valued greater than $25, please return it promptly to the sender with a note explaining this policy.
I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday.
Of course, in Horyn's defense, we don't know whether in her conversation with Hilfiger thanking him for the flowers -- undoubtedly worth far more than $25 -- the critic also mentioned that she was not allowed to accept them, per Times policy.