As a fashion spectacle (where hats take center stage), almost nothing compares to The Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, organized by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. The 26th FLO luncheon took place on Wednesday, May 7th, spearheaded by chairwomen Memrie Lewis, Gillian Miniter, Nancy Missett, and Tara Rockefeller, boasted a guest list which included some of New York’s biggest movers and shakers (Mayor Bloomberg and Martha Stewart among them), and best dressed social fixtures (Jamee Gregory, Amy Fine Collins, Somers Farkas, Susan Fales-Hill, Muffie Potter Aston). Those honored “for their outstanding commitment and contributions to preserving the park” were Nancy Paduano, Margaret and Ian Smith.

In fact, this annual rite of spring (which is the Central Park Conservancy’s largest benefit), has become known as the “Hat Luncheon”. And for a good reason. What began as a small intimate gathering for a few hundred is currently a popular ‘see and be seen’ date on one’s social calendar, which now draws well over 1200 guests, most of whom apparently use the theme and location of the event as a perfect opportunity to ‘cap’ off their spring finery with a hat. And as everyone knows, hats are ‘big’ these days. In fact, the millinery industry has been getting a real boost from the fashion world these past few seasons what with influential designers such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Proenza Schouler, Carolina Herrera, Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan, featuring hats prominently on their runways.

While some of the headgear worn by guests at the FLO luncheon could admittedly best be described as ordinary, run of the mill and ‘garden variety’ (pardon the pun), and not every woman (or man) wore a hat, (no, that was not Mayor Bloomberg wearing a flower laden chapeau), there were many guests whose inspired, whimsical choices proved they put a great deal of thought and planning into their outfits, and were obviously inspired, as usual, by the enviable natural setting of the location, (the breathtaking Conservatory Garden).

Right: Amy Fine Collins
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

And so, it was not surprising (and somewhat predictable) to find flowers everywhere; flowers decorating hats and floral printed dresses and coat ensembles. Perhaps it was a case of floral overkill in some instances where guests mixed the two…yikes! And it was hardly surprising that everywhere I looked there were guests clad in colors that mimicked flowers: pink in every shade was a crowd favorite and I noticed a lot of shocking pink worn with black (a real trend this spring), in addition to lilac, purple, yellows, red, and greens. And then there were the feathers….which are obviously not just ‘for the birds’ and continue to be a perennial favorite with both women and fashion designers. Feathers of all kinds, in all sizes and colors adorned every imaginable style of hat. And then there were butterflies: one huge butterfly (no, not a real one) was sitting atop a garden of flowers on one woman’s large hat.

Okay, so it didn’t always work and quite frankly, taken out of context and away from the gorgeous surroundings, (walking around in mid town for example) many of the guests would have looked downright silly if not preposterous. But in the most glorious spot in Central Park, with the lush greenery, breathtaking flowers, and the sun shining brightly on a gorgeous spring day (they say “it never rains on the FLO Awards” and this year was no exception…the legend continues!), everything takes on a life of its own.

Mayor Bloomberg with the Conservancy’s President, Douglas Blonsky
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

I know this is not a ‘fashion’ event per se, the guest list is not solely
comprised of fashionistas and fashion insiders (could it be that Mayor Bloomberg was the only one present at the FLO luncheon who also attended Monday evening’s Costume Institute Gala?!?) so you must temper my comments with a grain of salt. From my perspective, I would like to see more women show some individuality and not look so Garden Party-ish, and wearing hats that look like bad cast offs from last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Somers Farkas
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

Which is why my vote for ‘Best in Show’, has to go to statuesque social fixture Somers Farkas, who literally put everyone else to shame arriving in a dramatic starched white floor length shirtdress, accessorized with a messenger bag slung over her body, low heeled sandals, and a jaunty staw fedora adorned with a spray of white ostrich feathers. Of course, being almost 6 feet tall, rail thin, perpetually suntanned, and great looking doesn’t hurt (who said life is fair?) and admittedly not too many others could have pulled that off. That said, I can’t think of a better excuse to “go with the ‘FLO'”, let loose, lighten up, dress up, have fun, smile, and most importantly, raise money ($2.4 million to be exact) for a great cause.

-Marilyn Kirschner



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.