The New York Botanical Garden’s 20th Annual Winter Wonderland Ball

The New York Botanical Garden held its 20th Annual Winter Wonderland Ball last evening ( Presented by Bottega Veneta, and in support of NYBG’s Children’s Education Program, this event has been a fixture on the New York social calendar and one of the highlights of New York’s holiday social season since 1999. It’s hard to argue with its impressive guest list, the efforts of its tireless leadership committee, and of course, the setting, which is utterly magical albeit out of the way; unless of course, you happen to live in the Bronx.

Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

With a mission of public education, scientific research, and stewardship of the landmark site, the event raises funds for the Botanical Garden’s renowned Children’s Education program which serves thousands of children in the tristate region, particularly the underserved children in the Bronx. Last night there were approximately 500 guests in attendance and $450,000 was raised.

Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

As always, the naturally glorious, magical, and festive Botanical Gardens were made even more so; transformed as they were for the spectacular evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing. One of the big treats is always viewing the mind-blowingly creative Holiday Train Show as envisioned and created by Paul Busse and his Applied Imagination Company. Now in its 27th year, it runs through Monday, January 21st. This year, it showcases Lower Manhattan with enchanting model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 New York Landmarks, each re-created with bark, leaves, and other natural materials under the twinkling glow of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Battery Maritime Building
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Among the new Lower Manhattan replicas that made their debut this year (sharing the spotlight with old favorites like the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge) were the historic Battery Maritime Building, vintage ferry boats, the Battery Park Control House, the Woolworth Building, One World Trade Center, the Oculus, and the Terminal Warehouse.

Photo: Laurel Marcus

Gala Chairs were Sarah Chilton, Alex Assouline, Georgina Bloomberg, Natalie Bloomingdale, Peter Brant Jr., Martin Dawson, Gillian Hearst, Hilary Rhoda , Ariana Rockefeller and actress Anne Hathaway, who alas, was unable to attend. Vice Chairs were Savannah Engel, Kerry Joyce, Serena Marron, Nicole Meyers, Laurence Milstein, Alexandra Porter, Zack Thain, and designer Timo Weiland. Notable guests included Kelsey Asbille Chow, Alex Assouline, Charlotte Lebenthal Diamond, Jeremy Batoff, Georgina Bloomberg, Alecta Hill, Lilah Ramzi, Elizabeth Kennedy,Toby Milstein. FYI, it was hard not to notice that this event is really attracting a wonderfully youthful crowd.

Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

While this may not be a fashion event per se, there has always been an undeniably high fashion quotient associated with it. Hence, the roster of fashion sponsors such as this year’s Bottega Veneta which joins the ranks of Chanel, Etro, Burberry, Badgley Mischka, Judith Leiber, Herve Leger, Escada, among others. Unsurprisingly given the time of the year, guests really got their sartorial acts together. Feathers were flying, jewels and crystal adornments were spotted all around, and there was plenty of gold and silver, not to mention festive holiday color (especially red and green).

Jean Shafiroff
Photo: Laurel Marcus

There were also many guests who heeded the  dress code of winter white and black which is always chic.  The undeniable standout in the room was Jean Shafiroff in a fabulous and graphic black and white architectural creation by Victor dE Souza. She looked as good coming as going, as the back was really wonderful. No wonder the philanthropist made my 2018 Best Dressed List in the “Best Dressed in a Ball gown” category; her commitment to gowns is legendary; she doesn’t fool around!

Sharah Chilton
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Going in another direction entirely was Sarah Chilton looking sleek in a black and white jumpsuit with a black tuxedo thrown over her shoulders.

Natasha Blodgett
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Natasha Blodgett opted for a simple white strapless tunic with a black bow trailing in back, worn over white pants. She accessorized with towering black velvet platforms which added another 4 inches to her enviable 6 foot frame.

Samantha Cohen
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Samantha Cohen wore a black strapless sequined gown and effectively added a touch of winter white fur to one of her fingerless gloves and to the crutch she needed following recent hip surgery. The daughter of Michael Cohen was in the news earlier this week when she accompanied her father to court.

Laurel Marcus
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Laurel Marcus chose an eye catching black strapless gown with an interesting white overlay that mimicked a Venetian curtain. A black feathered vintage bag and a black and white feathered headdress added a touch of whimsy.

Valdez Murati
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Valdez Murati, the manager of a Bottega Veneta shop in Los Angeles creatively added a colorful serape to enliven his black and white formal attire. Speaking of Bottega Veneta, the company was founded in Vicenza in 1966 and steeped in the traditions of Italian craftsmanship and has been keeping a high profile as of late. Publicity (the good kind of course), is always good for a fashion house. In addition to sponsoring the Winter Wonderland Ball, they sponsored, and were honored at the Museum of Art and Design MAD Ball held in November at Cipriani 42nd Street.

Guest wearing winter white
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Back in July, a new creative director, Daniel Lee, came on board to fill the shoes of Tomas Meier. The 32 year old Lee graduated in the class of 2011 from Central Saint Martins and has lived in London, Paris, and New York. He was the former director of ready-to-wear at Celine has recently unveiled his first collection, pre- fall 2019 for the house (the emphasis is on chic, timeless, wearable clothes). The former protégé of Phoebe Philo is already being hailed as her “heir apparent” and there has been speculation that Bottega Veneta may become the ‘new’ Celine. Daniel is relatively unknown now, but that is likely to change.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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