Scene Last Night: Citi’s Corbat, Dinakar Singh, Rihanna, Gerwig

Jun 03, 2014 12:53 pm ET

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June 3 (Bloomberg) -- What gets the chief executive officer of a financial institution honored by a nonprofit?

For Citigroup’s Michael Corbat, last night’s honoree at the Spring Dinner for Education, New York Public Library President Anthony Marx gave one answer: the bank’s support of the institution goes back to 1946 and totals more than $7 million.

The figure includes a $5 million gift to expand MyLibraryNYC made when Corbat’s predecessor Vikram Pandit was still CEO. The program brings the resources of the public libraries into public schools in all five boroughs.

Corbat said his own reading interests focus on history. He sat for dinner with Khalil Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center in Harlem, which is exhibiting some of Maya Angelou’s archive through June 30, and Carmen Farina, New York City Schools Chancellor.

Around the room were plenty of Citigroup folk, including Raymond McGuire (a trustee of the library), Alan Macdonald, Eugene McQuade and Ed Skyler.

The Library counts on mostly private donors to run its English language programs for adults. The classes -- 10 weeks long, with two-hour meetings twice a week -- cater to a range of skill levels, from those who aren’t literate in their native language to professionals who seek English proficiency so they can continue their careers in the U.S.

After School

The Library is also running four after-school programs. In one, high school students take a semester of English language arts, training to tutor first- and second-graders, which they do on a paid internship in the second semester. Another offers homework help in students’ weakest subjects, in the first through the eighth grade.

Groups of high school students also research their communities, producing podcasts and other digital content. Another initiative provides intensive support to a small group, from the eighth grade through high school.

“To me, the place is real education for real people,” said Dinakar Singh, CEO of TPG-Axon Capital Management LP, a chairman of the event and a trustee of the library.

Also last night, Rihanna’s see-through gown showed how little a woman can wear and still get official recognition as a fashion icon.

Anna & Rihanna

The pop star/provocateur wore a fishnet floor-length tank shimmering with Swarovski crystals, matching headscarf and gloves, and a pink fur stole to accept the Fashion Icon Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Anna Wintour, wearing a sleeveless cocktail dress with a flower print, presented the 26-year-old Barbadian with the award, calling her “jaw-dropping” and “button-pushing,” someone who’s “a little boyish one day” and “a dazzling diva the next.”

“She proves that incredible style can help take a talented young woman from a small island to the world stage,” the Vogue editor added.

Rihanna echoed the idea that fashion has helped her advance. “I can compensate for all my weaknesses with my fashion,” she said.

There was also an epic comedy video “documenting” the text messages between Rihanna and Wintour.

“Thinking of wearing denim 2 the event,” Rihanna texts.

“Don’t,” Wintour replies.

The dress was designed by Adam Selman, who works on Rihanna’s tour costumes and dates her stylist, Mel Ottenberg. Swarovski not only added its sparkles to the frock, but underwrote the event.

Swarovski Sparkle

“We provide the last-minute sparkle, the glamour, the energy,” said Nadja Swarovski, a director of the business founded by her great-great-grandfather, speaking of the brand’s collaborations with designers.

For the men, one of the most eye-grabbing outfits was Cameron Silver’s hazard-orange tuxedo jacket, designed by Marlon Gobel. Silver, the founder of Los Angeles vintage boutique Decades, wore a set of stacked rings made for him by his date, jewelry designer Kara Ross.

“This is the start of my men’s line,” joked Ross, who wore vintage Geoffrey Beene.

“My inspiration was Marlon Brando in the 21st century,” Silver said. “I don’t do boring or basic. I can wear black when I’m dead.”

Tuxedoed Entourage

Actress Greta Gerwig sounded thrilled to be accompanied by Zac Posen, who wore a black tuxedo with a bunny pin on his lapel by jewelry designer Justin Davis. “I love tuxedos -- I grew up watching movie musicals, so my dream is to have a million men in top hats sing with me,” Gerwig said.

The merit awards to designers went to Joseph Altuzarra for womenswear, Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow for the Public School menswear label, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for The Row accessories. Raf Simons of Dior received the International Award, and Tom Ford received the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award.

Steven Kolb, president of the CFDA, said it’s difficult to translate the visibility that a nomination or win brings into direct sales and customers. “The collective power that we’re celebrating tonight is the force of American fashion, which is a $350 billion a year industry,” Kolb said.

Zoe Kazan, who’s acting in Manhattan Theatre Club’s “When We Were Young and Unafraid,” now in previews, attended the event with designer Steven Alan, whom she said she’d just met. She wore white. “I look for clothes that look like they already belong to me, the things that make me excited to get dressed in the morning. Getting dressed can be pretty daunting sometimes.”