The New York Botanical Garden Annual Orchid Dinner at the Plaza Hotel

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The Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom was the setting for The New York Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Dinner which was held on Wednesday evening (www.nybg.org). Underwritten by Hearst, Veranda Magazine, and Louis X111 Cognac, this enchanting event serves as the important fundraiser for NYBG’s enviable orchid collection (the more than 300 guests raised approximately $550,000). It is also a feast for the eyes and a reminder that spring is not too far behind.

This event also serves as a precursor to the Orchid Show, which opens on February 23rd and runs through April 23rd. Now in its 17th year, it promises to be a dazzling tribute to Singapore, the vibrant “City in a Garden” where these storied flowers are an integral part of the culture and landscape. Developed in partnership with Gardens by the Bay and Singapore Botanic Gardens, the exhibition pays homage to the sites’ iconic Supertrees — dramatic vertical habitats, and famed Arches — a highlight of the National Orchid Garden.

Brittany Bromley with her Oriental inspired table

This horticultural spectacle, set in the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, mesmerizes with thousands of orchids in every shape, color, and size. Treasures from NYBG’s exquisite orchid collection as well as varieties showcasing Singapore’s achievements in orchid hybridization, research, and conservation are also on display.

This year’s Chairs were Vera Aryeh and Bob Gossett, Sharon and Bill Jacob, Susan and George Matelich. Decorations Chair was Steele Marcoux, Editor-in-Chief, Veranda Magazine. Among the attendees were Martha Stewart, Maureen and Richard Chilton, Ariana and Camilla Rockefeller, Larry Milstein, Colin Cowie.

Rare orchids for sale Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The night began at 7p.m. with cocktails, a sale of “rare and exceptional” orchids (leading orchid experts were present to help those pondering their choices) and a Silent Auction of exclusive orchid themed items. At 8 p.m., guests made their way into The Grand Ballroom for dinner and dancing.

Julie Kantrowitz, JK Interior Living
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The room was, as always, literally transformed into a tropical paradise with each of its glorious tables punctuated by the resplendent, thoroughly imaginative and inventive over scaled orchid centerpieces; the work of 29 leading designers. Among the many standouts was Paris Forino’s birdcage themed table; Julie Kantrowitz’s pale winter wonderland, and Brittany Bromley Interior’s oriental themed table, which was in obvious homage to Singapore. She told me that she imagined a dream world built around orchids and pale transmuted colors with exotic elements such as hand-painted silk parasols and a 4 foot tall topiary elephant.

The table created by Todd Fiscus featured a table linen in duchess satin embroidered in Ming Dynasty Crain print in a myriad of colors and a custom five foot Pagoda created from Lucite filled with 150 stems of Vanda varietals including Ruby, Teddy Bear, Sunanda, and Chestnut Spot. I loved the way the Texas based designer’s graphic black and white Dsquared 2 coat was in high contrast to his vibrant florals.

Paris Forino birdcage themed table
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

There is no question that the lavish orchid centerpieces were the stars of the evening and they were really never outdone by the guests; even those who wore floral printed frocks in obvious homage to the theme (it was hard to tell where Laurel Marcus’s Prabal Gurung dress ended and Todd Fiscus’s table began lol). For the occasion, I opted for a vintage Geoffrey Beene coat from the 60’s with a black and white floral print that looked decidedly like orchids.

Coincidentally, on the same evening, Tom Ford, whose signature and best-selling fragrance just happens to be Black Orchid (along with Orchid Soleil and Velvet Orchid), presented his fall winter 2019 collection. It was a study in louche tailoring; a mix of masculine and feminine recalling his Gucci 90’s heyday (very Carine Roitfeld) played out in shimmering satin, silk, velvet, leather, and a smattering of faux furs. And while there was some black and white, the story was the mouthwatering color. The way Tom artfully combined the saturated reds, pinks, lavenders, and blues perfectly echoed the hues of the glorious orchids on display at the Plaza.

Tom is hardly the only designer who is obviously inspired by nature’s flora and fauna (not that there is anything new about that). Ralph Lauren’s spring 2019 collection, unveiled in his café on Thursday morning, was all about sleek black with gold (and military touches). He accessorized with modernist sculptural gold jewelry, belts, and gilded towering heels (I can easily imagine Melania Trump making an entrance in any one of the pieces shown, especially the floor length gold cape). But thrown into the mix were a softer group of over scaled black and white floral pieces in organza and leather.

Also, Rodarte’s ultra-feminine, colorful, and unapologetically over the top fall winter 2019 show, which was held in California earlier this week, featured bow, butterfly, and floral printed dresses, rows of ruffles and eyelet, further accessorized with lavish floral head pieces, a signature of the Mulleavy sisters.

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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