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On the Runway: Insiders and Outsiders

"Dream Catchers" was the theme of the Fashion Group International's annual Night of Stars benefit on Thursday, but it might as well have been something like "Insiders and Outsiders." There were a lot of wisecracks from fashion professionals aimed at their own industry, and a couple of guests who professed not to have a clue what they were talking about.

That's the charm of this particular black-tie affair, held at Cipriani 55 Wall Street, which usually honors a diverse mix of designers, retailers and architects in a fairly low-key way, kind of like what the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Fashion Awards used to look like before they became so glitzy. That is to say they're a little less scripted.

Viola Davis, who presented an award to the Maramotti family of Max Mara, did so by saying: "I know very little to nothing about fashion. My go-to wear is a Target shirt that I am supposed to wear over my bathing suit, but I wear it to bed. I wear it to lounge around the house, and my husband is sick of it."

Wynton Marsalis, who received a humanitarian award, said, "I'm going to prove I'm a humanitarian by not talking that much." He did tell one story. Of growing up in the small towns of Louisiana, he said: "People dressed very plainly, but on Sunday, they would break out those canary yellow suits, or lime green. You'd see colors you didn't even know existed in nature. Sisters would come out with hats that looked like part of the Amazon was on top of them. But when they stepped out there with those threads on, they became more of themselves. That was my connection with fashion."

As for the inside jokes, there were more than a few. Karl Lagerfeld, who presented an award to Haider Ackermann, made an introductory speech that lasted less than a minute. (He was once skewered on this stage for delivering a handwritten treatise on the state of fashion that did go on.)

And once again, Simon Doonan, as the host of the evening, delivered a traditionally silly opening monologue that this year worked all of the honorees into a dream sequence. Long story short: L'Wren Scott had invited him to a slumber party at her house, where he couldn't reach the doorbell (because she is very tall), so Gareth Pugh and Derek Lam, when they arrived, "displaying the kind of ingenuity that has helped each of us claw our way to the top, or in my case, the lower half of the middle bit," climbed upon one another's shoulders to reach "L'Wren's polished knocker." Inside were the other honorees, including Karen Katz, the chief executive of Neiman Marcus, who "was having such a great time that she got overexcited and began hyperventilating into a Neiman Marcus bag."

Later, when Ms. Katz accepted her award, she had a zinger of her own.

"I have been known to use a Neiman Marcus bag when I'm going to hyperventilate, but when I'm really going to be sick," she said, "I pick up a Saks Fifth Avenue bag."