The New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Dinner

Chandeliers take center stage at the Orchid Dinner
(All photos Marilyn Kirschner)

There is much that is unimaginably frightful, terrifying and ugly in this world. But there is also a lot of beauty, and we can always count on the majesty of flowers to beautify, enhance and inspire (as they are known to do in the worlds of fashion and design). The New York Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Dinner (, held on Tuesday night at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Time Warner Center, with its gorgeous views of a snow covered Central Park and Manhattan, could not have come at a better time. It also served as a wonderful reminder that spring is not too far away.

This wildly popular New York event (underwritten by Hearst, Veranda, and BNY Mellon) was chaired by Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan C. Clay and Mr. and Mrs. Steven R. Swartz. Clinton Smith, Editor in Chief of Veranda served as Chair. The evening (a fundraiser for the Botanical Garden’s world renowned orchid collection and research program), featured an exclusive press preview and early décor showcase, cocktail party and a sale of rare and exceptional orchids (some of the world’s leading orchid specialists were on hand to lend their knowledge to potential buyers), and dinner and dancing in the Grand Ballroom.

A table inspired by Jackson Pollock

Unsurprisingly, the theme of the evening served as sartorial inspiration for some of the guests. Among them: Jean Shafiroff and Sharon Jacobs, who opted for cocktail dresses printed with delicate florals; Katharina Plath, who wore a floral printed chiffon floor length skirt and crisp white shirt; and Martha Stewart, in ‘green thumb’ green (she wore a dark olive Ralph Rucci jacket to be exact). And then there was Ally Coultier, who looked like an elegant white orchid in her white knee length bias cut one shouldered dress, white tights, and white pumps. And it was a perfect excuse for me to wear what was hands down, my best buy of last year: H&M’s (yup, you got that right!) mid- calf a line skirt and matching cardigan, printed with an overblown abstract flower, which looked like an orchid to me (the top was $49.95 and the skirt, $129). With its exaggerated shape and vibrant colors, it certainly made a hit.

James Rixner’s ode to Frank Lloyd Wright’s  Fallingwater

But alas, we would invariably all be overshadowed by the main event: the fabulous, often fantastical and wildly imaginative table centerpieces of large scale orchid arrangements, which were created by more than 25 of New York’s leading floral designers. Among my favorites: David M. Handy’s table, which featured a birdcage ‘chandelier’; FlowerSchool New York’s Oriental themed table complete with a pagoda; Roric Tobin for Geoffrey Bradfield, Inc.’s homage to Jackson Pollock complete with paint splattered cans of paint on the table, a paint splattered tablecloth, and paint splattered smocks on each chair; James Rixner’s ode to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, one of America’s true architectural treasures.  By the way, since this event was a precursor to the Botanical Garden’s spectacular annual Orchid Show which runs from February 28 through April 19th, and the theme this year is Chandeliers, it was not surprising that chandeliers were the focal point of many of the tables.

Rooms with a View

Group of bridge inspired graphic geometric silk sponge   dresses

When I received an invitation to Lisa Perry’s Wednesday afternoon Fall 2015 presentation, I immediately noticed that instead of showing in her Madison Avenue Boutique, as she has usually done, she had switched venues to 1 Sutton Place South. So I assumed we were in for a real treat: a show within her fabulous art filled penthouse apartment (the one that had previously been photographed in Vogue). Wrong. It was actually an installation on dress forms, in a large sunlit apartment that she just purchased, which is downstairs from her main living space (she said it’s another great place for “reading” Lisa observed). Two men met you as you walked in the door, offering champagne and mineral water, and it was quick, elegant, and a wonderfully civilized way to start fashion week.

Laser cut double faced neoprene group

Luckily for myself and Neiman’s Ken Downing (who predicts we will be seeing a lot of 70’s inspired disco era fashions in the next week), Lisa gave us a quick (and I mean quick) guided tour upstairs, and walked us through every room, including the one that houses her vintage collection. I’ve known Lisa for decades, long before she became a fashion designer, having first met her when we were both going to the various New York based vintage shows. I still attend them, but  I don’t see Lisa anymore. She said she doesn’t go because she admitted she already has “everything” she wants, except for the famed YSL Mondrian dress that is. I’m sure she’ll find it because eventually, everything shows up.

The 59th Street Bridge from one of Lisa’s windows

Lisa’s inspiration for the fall collection (which is admittedly an “evolution” of her aesthetic, rather than something necessarily brand new) is “bridges, architecture ”, and that is hardly a stretch given that wherever you look, in both apartments, there are enormous windows, all of them facing over the east river, and all with enviable views of the iconic 59th Street bridge and beyond.

Color blocked wool jersey dresses

Highlights of the collection include a “bridge” inspired group of short graphic, geometric dresses made of silk sponge; a group of colorful color blocked dresses made of wool jersey (“signature” Perry); and a group in gray with orange circles, made of double face laser cut neoprene. So as not to let any fabric go to waste, she took the circles out of the long dress (her personal favorite), and created a vest, which was shown over a short dress with an orange peter pan collar.

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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