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Mary Alice Stephenson, Visionaire, Really Smart Kids Hit the Waldorf

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Braving the possibility of Snowmageddon Part Deux, bold names in fashion gathered at the Waldorf Astoria last night for a good cause: The 45th Annual YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) Geoffrey Beene National Scholarship Awards Dinner. That's a mouthful, but in short, the event benefited the YMA FSF and awarded scholarships to eight bright and ambitious college students who created some pretty genius "store of the future" concepts (more on that in a bit). The event also honored Visionaire founders Cecilia Dean, Stephen Gan, and James Kaliardos with the inaugural "Future of Fashion Award."

Before dinner, we chatted with stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, the event's host and master of ceremonies, who was bringing sheer pantyhose back with iridescent Wolford hosiery accessorizing her Lanvin one-shoulder mini-dress and Jimmy Choo shoes—her first of two ensembles of the night, of course.

We asked the former editor turned stylist and TV personality what her vision of a futuristic store would be. "To be able to beam myself into whatever boutique I wanted to be in," she mused. "Anywhere in the world. Whenever I wanted. So when I want to be with Alber Elbaz in the Lanvin boutique in Paris, then beam me up Scotty. That would be nice. Just like an I Dream of Jeannie moment where in a blink of the eye, you're in Celine, a blink of an eye you're in Lanvin, a blink of the eye, you're in...H&M."

Speaking of retro TV references, Stephen Gan was on the Star Trek train of thought, too. His vision: "Like a store that was floating. Like what you'd see in a science fiction movie where there was no gravity." But then how would you physically shop? "I don't know...things would just come at you."

Stephen's fellow Visionaire founder James Kaliardos offered a more low-key yet hard-to-find approach. "Something like Colette in Paris with great food and place to socialize. I think it's such an important thing when you have room to do that when you're out shopping. Because retail spaces are expensive, there's often no room to be with people when you're out and about." Add some booze and let's call it a party.

Harper's Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey shared, "I think retail is actually the entertainment industry, so for me it's all about creating a really fabulous time while shopping and that has got to be the greatest retail concept." So what are her favorite shops to visit? "I really love going to Saks and I love going to Bergdorfs. Barneys—I like the fact that it's edited and has so many different designers that you might not expect to see."

Mary Alice Stephenson counts the DUMBO boutique Zöe as her number one favorite in New York City (and even offered to take us shopping with her. Yes, please!), but shockingly, Cecilia Dean and Stephan Gan don't like to shop. "Maybe I shouldn't be saying this being a fashion person, but I personally find it hard to shop," Stephen quietly revealed. "I'd rather work than shop actually." Blasphemy.

While Francisco Costa bailed because of the impending snow, Ruben and Isabel Toledo, both looking radiant, made their way to the Waldorf. "We love when it snows in Midtown because it becomes a fairy tale," Ruben excitedly declared. "Nothing holds us back from a snowstorm. We can't stay in as a matter of fact. We love it."

Of course, the night was all about the kids, who either received a $25,000 or $10,000 scholarship from the Fashion Scholarship Fund. We chatted with the four $25,000 recipients to hear about their impressive stores of the future. Inspired by a sustainability class, Pratt student Ruby Gertz created the Revolve concept where "everything from the fall season can get sent back to the store for the spring and it actually will get remade into new designs for spring and at a fraction of the price".

Speaking of sustainability, University of Wisconson at Madison student Anna Hart Turner formulated Library, an "eco-friendly clothing rental store." She was inspired by her high school job of working in, well, the library, plus an internship with Chicago designer Lara Miller.

New Yorkers will appreciate Cornell student John Sohn's mobile shop Gypsy, which was inspired by the the "wanderlust lifestyle of gypsy travelers" and food trucks. His "itinerant retail space" would travel across the country offering apparel, accessories, fragrances, electronics, vintage collectibles. May we suggest offering a supplement of halal sandwiches or Korean tacos, too?

Wharton student and fashion blogger Tony Wang devised Savant, which he describes as "a digital brand that incorporates a lot of different technologies, like social media and web 2.0." He would recruit a rotating group of graduates from the top design schools around the world for three-year stints to keep things fresh and shoppers would use Twitter to communicate with staffers.

We're looking forward to hearing lots more from these über-enterprising kids in the future. In the meantime, we're waiting for Mary Alice to follow through on her offer to take us shopping.
· YMA Scholarship Fund [Official Site]