Donna Karan and Julian Schnabel Honored at Sold-Out East Hampton Longhouse Reserve Gala

The gardens
All photos by Lieba Nesis

The symbiosis between art and fashion was never more evident than at the Longhouse Reserve Summer Benefit held at 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton on July 20, 2019 – one of the hottest days in years. Entering the Reserve, I found a sprawling 16-acre property that owner Jack Larsen has turned into a space housing collections, gardens, sculptures, and programs. His plan is eventually to turn the place into a museum.

Entrance to the Reserve

As I entered the garden, pink rose petals adorned the walkway. Legendary photographer Patrick McMullan was busy photographing the arriving guests with contagious enthusiasm. Jon Marder, who expertly ran the event, ensured there was a seamless progression from one space to the next as guests had the opportunity to fraternize by the art in the front or hang out on couches in the back.

Jack Larsen seated and Peter Olsen owners of the property.

For those who are don’t know Marder, due to his unassuming manner, he is one of the kindest and gentlest human beings performing his job with effortless professionalism. At his recent birthday party at Susan Gutfreund’s house socialites from Paris and Germany flew in for the grand occasion. Tonight he handed out rose-colored glasses to the 500-person sold-out crowd. Tickets which started at $1,250 ran out quickly, and excited guests arrived at 6 PM to pay homage to illustrious honorees Donna Karan and Julian Schnabel.

Zac Posen and Fern Mallis

It was no surprise that these two luminaries brought the best and brightest in fashion and art with Robert Wilson and Ross Bleckner colliding with Zac Posen and Fern Mallis. Surprisingly, designer Posen came, not for Karan, but for his great friend Schnabel since Posen’s father was a painter and he grew up hanging out in Julian’s studio.

Left-to-Right: Benjamin Clementine, Vito Schnabel, Laurie Anderson, Julian Schnabel, and Louise Kugelberg with Schnabel sculpture

Even the impossibly elegant Posen was sweating as he discussed his excitement at being asked to design the costumes for the New York City Ballet Gala in September. Posen’s structurally masterful gowns are indicative of his artistic upbringing, and I am looking forward to his upcoming collection which he is currently working on.

Sandy Horvitz and Diane Benson

As the guests streamed in, Schnabel and Karan were nowhere to be found. Finally, I spotted Schnabel behind his masterful white sculpture trying to hide from the crowd of photographers while he and his three sons Vito, Olmo, and Cy conversed with guests nearby. An hour later, Schnabel who abandoned his usual pajama attire for a more “formal” denim shirt acquiesced to picture taking with his striking girlfriend, Louise Kugelberg in tow. “Where was Karan?” I inquired, “Oh, she is always late,” a friend responded.

Donna Karan

And so at approximately 7:30 PM Karan came waltzing in wearing a silk ensemble that had the signature Karan draping and styling that she revolutionized in the ’90s. At 8 PM guests headed to the tent nearby for a dinner of halibut and steak with a vegan and gluten-free option available.

Andrew Saffirt and Daniel Benedic

After some necessary acknowledgments, artist Ross Bleckner introduced his high school friend Karan praising her philanthropic efforts with “7th on Sale” and her Urban Zen empire which has trained 900 clinicians to administer western medicine and eastern holistic care for sick patients.

Artist Robert Wilson

Karan arrived on stage and spoke with an honesty that left attendees in “shock and awe.” She joked about how she had failed “typing” and “draping” in school and how she had wanted to be an artist and singer but wasn’t good enough to do either. Karan, 70, went on a lengthy exposition on the importance of health care and how concerned she was that patients didn’t have adequate advocacy in the current system. Kaan said her memory had diminished as she has gotten older and she is concerned that others have appropriate caregivers with advancing age.

Ken Miller in front of his Koi painting

Karan’s other philanthropic focuses include the preservation of cultures of the past and education for future generations. She acknowledged that the soul was of utmost importance. Karan exited the stage to enthusiastic applause and attendees were shown an expertly crafted video documenting her tremendous success as a designer who has won 6 CFDA awards.

Cy Schnabel, Benjamin Clementine and Olmo Schnabel

Artist Laurie Anderson (wife of rocker Lou Reed) introduced Schnabel as guests fanned themselves to ease the scorching heat. She praised Schnabel’s art for being “perfect, breathtaking and completely free” and asked one side of the audience to say “a griffin and a fez” and the other to declare “what is ecstasy”- the significance of which I am not sure.

Actress Mercedes Ruehl

Benjamin Clementine, the award-winning composer, and vocalist treated the audience to some of his tunes on the piano. Schnabel referred to Clementine as a second son and said he was duly impressed by the collection Larsen had assembled on the property. Schnabel then asked Clementine to sing his hit “Cornerstone” and concluded his one-minute speech by saying he would like to thank everyone who means something to him as he looks out into the audience.

As guests headed to the Pavillion to enjoy Laurie Anderson’s performance and sample desserts by “Carissa,” I headed out to my uber nearly tripping on the open grates as my heel got caught in the dark abyss of the Reserve – a scary conclusion to an exceptional evening.

Lieba Nesis
Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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