Jessica Alba, Rashida Jones, Tinashe & More Celebrate NYFW at Refinery 29's '29 Rooms' Party

Matteo Prandoni/BFA/REX/Shutterstock
Jessica Alba attend Refinery 29's '29 Rooms' opening in New York City on Sept. 8, 2016.  

During New York Fashion Week, it seems everyone is vying for attention. With street-style stars peacocking outside runway shows and brands handing out free samples galore, it’s hard to cut through the fashion week noise -- but that’s exactly what Refinery 29 did Thursday night with its 29 Rooms party. 

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After its debut last year was met with great success, 29 Rooms returned this year as an exhibition in an 80,000-square-foot warehouse featuring fantastical rooms intended to showcase style, beauty, art, technology and design. Each room had a different theme and stemmed from a collaboration between Refinery 29 and an artist or brand.

The VIP party, which kicked off the exhibition’s weekend-long run, saw a great turnout from celebrities and digital influencers of many stripes. Rashida Jones of The Office fame cracked jokes with Refinery 29 host Michael Brown; actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba hammed it up for the camera in the Ulta Beauty room; and DJ Chelsea Leyland tried out the Google Play station. Underneath it all, everyone’s favorite jams were being remixed with a throbbing bass by it-girl DJ duo SIMIHAZE.

But the stars didn’t just turn out to play -- they also had a hand in creating the event in the first place. Collaborators like Tinashe, RuPaul, Abbi Jacobson, Priyanka Chopra, Cleo Wade, Mia Moretti and more all contributed to rooms spread throughout the space. 

The most popular rooms of the evening were those that combined interactivity with great photo opps. Whether it was RuPaul’s room with fantastical wigs that guests could pose in or the wall Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson invited attendees to draw on, there was plenty to keep visitors busy -- and Instagramming, snapping and tweeting -- all night long. Heavily branded rooms tended not to be quite as popular, perhaps because the crowd in attendance had already had too many products pushed at them, even just a few days into fashion week.

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One highlight of the night was the room that model and Gurls Talk founder Adwoa Aboah helped create. With hundreds of plastic telephones hanging from the ceiling, the installation is a striking piece of art in and of itself. But walking among the phones and holding them to one’s ear leads to an even more interesting experience -- hearing in their own words the inspirational stories of some of the women that Aboah admires, like activist Erica Garner, model Cara Delevingne and Denise Gough. Aboah herself, who showed up to the event with a shaved head with symbols painted onto it, mingled casually with other guests throughout the night.

Another popular spot turned out to be the You-niverse room, in which guests could get an "aura photo" taken, or a Polaroid portrait that allegedly reads the sitter’s spiritual energy through color. Adrian Grenier from Entourage, who collaborated on an ocean-decorated room benefitting Lonely Whale, was just one celeb who opted to get his aura portrait taken. The line to the mini aura portrait studio decorated like a moonscape -- complete with tons of moon-like sand covering the floor -- soon stretched out the door.

By midnight, most guests had exhausted either the extensive number of photo opps or their own desire to take advantage of them, and had begun grooving on the dance floor, chatting at the open bar or perusing the Refinery 29 gift shop located nearby. To a cynical eye, the whole event might have looked like just one more branded PR gimmick intended to draw attention to a fashion publication trying to get itself some good press and an increased social following. But some individuals seemed to feel differently about it.

“I feel so inspired,” one blogger in line for an aura photograph said near the end of the night. “This makes me want to start making art again.”