Fashion mover Ikram Goldman wows in performance with Pink Martini

Well-connected fashion buyer Ikram Goldman in her shop in Chicago.
Well-connected fashion buyer Ikram Goldman in her shop in Chicago.PHOTO: NYTIMES

PARIS • There are many ways the front row tries to unwind at the end of Paris Fashion Week (massages, minibreaks and so on), but making a public singing debut with a 13-member orchestra in front of a 1,750-strong audience is not usually one of them.

But Ikram Goldman, owner of the Chicago boutique that bears her name and one of the most powerful and well-connected buyers in the fashion business, is not known in the industry for being a shrinking violet.

Last week, it turned out that the Israeli-born Goldman - who has the ear of editors, designers and first ladies alike (her most famous former customer is Michelle Obama) - also has a singing voice that can get strangers leaping to their feet in a packed auditorium.

After weeks attending fashion shows across multiple cities, Goldman had a guest spot singing with Pink Martini, an eclectic jazz/ Latin/lounge act from Portland, Oregon, which, thanks to their multilingual repertoire, command a huge global following. Three nights last week, the group played at the Parisian music venue L'Olympia to energetic crowds. And because of Ikram (everyone calls her Ikram), to many off-duty style insiders too.

The fashion world is often portrayed as a catty, cold place, where competition and sniping are rife and camaraderie is rare, but it is, in fact, full of makeshift families and Goldman is at the centre of one. Thus, the concert was also a quasi reunion.

"Can you believe I am standing up here? I can't believe I'm standing up here," Goldman said as she took to the stage last Tuesday, resplendent in a shimmering red, black and gold coat by Nigerian-British designer Duro Olowu, who happened to be in the audience. "Thank you, everyone, for coming tonight - even though I bulldozed you into it."

Also, there were designers Maria Cornejo and Olivier Theyskens, American Vogue editors Sally Singer and Mark Holgate, fashion writer Lynn Yaeger and Mr Mickey Boardman, editorial director of Paper magazine, who said he was not surprised by the turnout. Expected last Wednesday were designer Alber Elbaz and Mr Christophe Robin, the Paris-based colour specialist who had done Goldman's hair as well as that of the band's lead singer, China Forbes, earlier in the week.

"Are you kidding? Fashion people love Pink Martini and they love Ikram," Mr Boardman said as he sat with Goldman's husband, Mr Josh Goldman, who beamed with pride. "She was basically shooting fish in a barrel when she asked if people would like to come along. And look at her, she's a ready-made star."

Ikram Goldman, Mr Boardman added, had been introduced to Pink Martini pianist Thomas Lauderdale and Forbes by his boss, Ms Kim Hastreiter, co-editor-in-chief of Paper. She, too, performed with the band - at the Hollywood Bowl - on the triangle and glockenspiel.

Back on stage, Goldman was saying that the song she had chosen, Girl From Shallabiya, was originally sung by Lebanese star Fairuz, one of her favourite performers, whom she had listened to as a child. By coincidence, she added, the first time Fairuz had performed the song had been at the same venue.

After her five-minute performance, Goldman wept and smiled while her nearest and dearest buzzed with delight.

"It was a triumph," said Ms Michelle Stein, president of Aeffe USA, whose Italian parent owns brands such as Alberta Ferretti and Moschino. "Her performance was technically beautiful and quite moving, particularly after her emotional introduction of the song. I could just envision her mother singing this song to a young and very impressionable Ikram."

After her big moment, Goldman continued to sing backup vocals for the rest of the performance, inviting her friends and family onto the stage to sing with what felt like half the crowd at the finale.

"It's amazing to see," Mr Boardman said as he picked up his handbag and made his way out into the crisp, fall night. "Our own little community having fun and rallying for one of our own. But also breaking out of the Fashion Week bubble, just for a minute and living in the real world - and remembering how life goes on outside it. It was beautiful, I thought."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'Fashion mover Ikram Goldman wows in performance with Pink Martini'. Print Edition | Subscribe