“Scoot over so you don’t step on Donatella,” says Amber Asher.
The CEO of Standard International is the still point amid the chaos—at the famously raucous Met Gala after-party—standing tall and calm in a white column dress by New York designer Carly Cushnie while fielding last-minute requests from various pop stars and coordinating a security team so stealth they could be Oceans 8 thieves. At the moment, she’s also directing traffic so Our Lady of Versace doesn’t get trampled by a flock of thirst trap scenesters wearing the night’s shoe of choice—satin platforms by Donatella herself.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had at one of these, and that’s saying something,” says Laura Harrier as she breezes by in lilac wrap dress by Khaite. Phoebe Dynevor seemingly agreed. “I love this dress so much, I wanted to keep wearing it,” she said of her black Louis Vuitton gown. “Anyway, I heard this party is great. I just wanted to get here!”
Part of the reason it’s “great” is because—unlike another prominent after-parties across town where models and influencers appear to be the only women in attendance—Asher and her team of largely female and queer executives in charge of this function know that, when women are visible at all levels of nightlife, people feel safer to truly let go.
That might be why, although Billie Eilish’s team had asked for a super-private table, the singer gave it to Erykah Badu, opting instead to spend the entire night on the dance floor like a civilian. In the next banquette, a coven of Italian fashion royalty (clad in Valentino pink, certo) take bets on Rihanna’s due date. “Please don’t ask me about the pink,” says Sebastian Stan, who’d changed into all-black after his neon fuchsia streak on the Met Gala carpet. “I feel like it already happened a million years ago, you know?” Then I almost spilled my vodka and he caught it, because he is an Avenger.
Five minutes later, Cardi B—who is not an Avenger, but probably should be?—explains her party hosting duties while climbing onto the Boom Boom Room bar in a full Versace look. (Law Roach helps her up and tucks in her tag, like a true image architect.) “It’s my job to make sure everyone is having a time,” she proclaims. “And you know it’s open bar, right? This whole place is open! Let’s make sure we get everybody shots, that’s number one.” She hands a shot to Darren Criss (in a cowboy hat). She hands a shot to Maude Apotow (in Miu Miu). She hands a shot to Chiara Ferragni (in Versace) and then pauses to take a phone call—while still standing on the bar—before asking DJ Kitty Ca$h to play “WAP.”
“The big rule we have for the guest list is ‘no assholes,’” Asher says. “You disrespect someone, you’re out. You make someone feel unsafe or unworthy in any way, you’re gone. That’s the trick to having an exclusive party that’s also inclusive, but it’s also just the trick to being a [CEO] who’s also a human being. There aren’t many women who are CEOs of hotel groups, or nightlife groups. Asher is something of both, working with VP of Marketing Corey Tuttle on the social aspects while leading property development of new hotels in A-list hotspots like Bangkok and Ibiza. “I’ve been so lucky to learn from some amazing men—and some men who showed me what not to do, frankly—and to build a team with incredible women and men. But leading starts with making people feel safe. And you can’t do that around jerks.”
Asher’s learning curve around “jerks” was steep. The Michigan native first trained as a lawyer, and was serving as The Standard’s general counsel when Solange and Jay-Z’s infamous elevator fight footage from the 2014 Met Gala after-party was leaked to the public. “As a lawyer, that was…uh…challenging,” Asher winces. “But we handled it so swiftly. We put measures in place literally the next day to ensure that could never happen again. We took a hard look at the people we had around us and the integrity we knew was mandatory. I mean, it’s a hotel! You have to feel safe at a hotel… To our credit, I think we handled it so swiftly and deliberately that, by the next year, it was a non-issue for guests. We had J.Lo dancing to her own songs on the dance floor. We had Mark Ronson and Lady Gaga doing a concert with David Byrne—they covered, like, every Talking Heads song. Of course, I regret that Beyoncé and Jay-Z and Solange haven’t come back since. I wish they would, and of course, our doors are always open. I look forward to showing them the most incredible time.”
Back on the banquettes, I spot Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, and Jeremy Strong…who is wearing Danes’s netted veil like a baseball cap, because…well…perhaps he is preparing to play her in an upcoming production? Sure. We’ll go with that. Then the lights briefly dim as Cardi B leads the crowd in a “Happy Birthday” chant for Donatella. She blows the candles out on a black and gold cake as Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott, Emily Ratajkowski, and Madelaine Petsch beamed along.
In the next corner, Sky Ferreira (in full Celine) chatted briefly about her new album, Masochism, which is finally (yay!) coming out. “You think I’d be here at 3 A.M. if I didn’t have new music to promote?” she asked. “Actually, yes, I would be. This party, it’s not like you can miss it.”
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