For those of you who may not know, let me tell you about the Dîner en Blanc. It’s an annual event where people meet up for a giant outdoor dinner and guests are required to dress in white. The original event, started in 1988 drew a hundred people and was intended as a sort of giant reunion for a group of friends. Not everyone knew each other so people dressed in white to recognize one another on the street. Fast forward to 2011; the event is now several thousand strong and has become a cultural phenomenon. People bring their table and chairs, as well as their meals and drinks. They are only told one hour before the event where the dinner will take place and it is always held in the most picturesque surroundings.
The Paris dîner is very festive, convivial and laid back. People from all necks of the woods gather and have a good time, eating, drinking and dancing, very appreciative of the exceptional event they are attending. It’s as we say in french a very “bon enfant” ambiance.
This year, the first Dîner en Blanc was held in New York. I was actually surprised the city hadn’t tried its hand at it previously. It was held last thursday on the Wold Financial Center Plaza with the new One Trade Center building in the background and the Marina in the foreground.
From my understanding, the New York diner had a bit more formal and professional feel to it. Guests were required to pay a $50 fee to cover logistics, whereas the Paris event is free. The actual dinner felt more like a reception rather than a festive urban picnic. And as much as I do appreciate the guests sartorial efforts, the Dîner en Blanc is not about making a fashion statement. It’s about conviviality, meeting strangers for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and enjoying a good botttle of rosé while dancing the night away.
But I will say this: Paris has 23 years worth of experience at organizing the Dîner and for a first try, it seems like New York did a pretty good job. And maybe the over-the-top fashion statements is New York’s way of owning the Dîner en Blanc-on their side of the pond anyways.