Frederick Law Olmsted Luncheon


Even though early weather reports were not promising, I certainly didn’t need to rely on the wisdom of the professional weathermen to inform me that the rain would stay to the east of the city yesterday. Because being the first Wednesday in May, meant that it was the 24th annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon presented by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy honoring Karen LeFrak and Patti and Raymond Chambers for their generous contributions to the park. And it’s a known fact that it NEVER rains on the FLO Awards lunch, a wildly popular event and the largest fundraiser for the Central Park Conservancy attended by over 1,200 guests, many of them high profile. This time, America’s Sweetheart, Katie Couric was there and it’s obvious she is increasingly taking her public persona very seriously.

I had watched her on the Today Show earlier in the morning, and she was wearing a perfectly nice but rather nondescript pale tweed skirt suit. Though it was very typical of outfits Ms. Couric has worn on the air and certainly would have been appropriate for the lunch (especially paired with a hat of some sort), when she arrived for the event, it was obvious she had been given a quick and complete “do-over” courtesy of her stylist. She had changed into a far more stylish and eye catching black and white ensemble (white knee length coat, black dress, black pumps, and a dramatic white hat trimmed with black). And getting back to the weather, not only did it NOT rain, the sun actually shone a bit, all the more prefect to enjoy and appreciate the magnificent flowers in bloom and lush gardens that are the pièce de resistance of this magical New York place.

The FLO Awards Luncheon is also a fashion spectacle where hats are center stage (one almost feels ‘naked’ showing up without wearing one) – which attracts not only the New York swells, but those from around the country and around the world. While admittedly, it’s not an ‘edgy’ fashion forward scene, and the majority of guests are not plugged in fashion insiders who live and breathe fashion (but women and men from varied walks of life who have other passions), that doesn’t mean that there were no fashion pros in attendance. And quite frankly, it seems that each year, the number of high profile fashion insiders grows. And why not? It’s good publicity and it’s good to be seen.

There was Vanity Fair’s Amy Fine Collins, a study in lacquer red; a red suit, red shoes, and a hat (for the second year in a row) that not only looked inexplicably like something scarily extraterrestrial, but looked as if it could poke someone’s eyes out. On second thought, it’s very ‘explicable’: it’s all about standing out in the crowd. There was also a hatless Glenda Bailey who must have felt her graphic black and white coat made enough of a statement. Furrier/social fixture Dennis Basso and fashion designer/social fixture Tory Burch were also there (hey, what could be the downside of staying close to your customers?) And Chanel’s Arie Kopelman and wife Coco came as well.

And for her very first time at the event, Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at FIT, brought legendary hat designer Philippe Model, who made the trip from Paris especially for the occasion. Naturally, more than a few women were wearing his exuberant, colorful, flower strewn chapeaus. Another milliner was also in attendance, Eric Javits, who was probably able to tally many of his creations as well.

By the way, Dr. Steele looked chic and elegant in black and beige (a nice respite from all the predictably sweet almost cloying pastels favored by so many others): her oversized face framing sculptural straw hat was a vintage Charles Jourdan which she admitted was purchased at the most recent Triple Piers Show; her chic raw edged skirt suit was Isabel Toledo from spring of 2004; and her black Marc Jacobs round toe pumps were perfect and from several seasons back.

And while most of the hats were of your average straw brimmed/flower decorated ‘garden variety’ (sorry for the pun), there were many who went a bit crazy and had fun with their choices (hurray for those fun loving ladies) – There were lots of big, big, big flowers of course, many resembling flower pots perched on the head, and there were many hats that were all feathered or decorated with feathers. My award for the ‘Best in Show’ in that category, (particularly when you factor in this week’s opening of the Burberry sponsored AngloMania exhibit) goes to a woman who took her “trusty old Burberry rain hat” and rakishly added a few large pheasant feathers on the side, to give it some attitude. She wore it with a bias cut beige skirt suit which was the perfect ‘accessory’ for the hat. Quite frankly, had she attended the Costume Institute Gala, and worn that ensemble, she would have been more appropriately and interestingly attired than many of those who showed up in their uninspired, requisite and predictable gowns.

But my ‘Best in Show’ for creativity and ingenuity, goes to Carole McDermott, a committee member (and an artist), who made her own hat which spoke volumes about her talent and her passion. Decorated with several miniature easels which she painted herself with scenes of Central Park and the Conservancy in full bloom, it also featured a miniature easel (found at a shop that sells dollhouses) and was crowned on top with a ‘likeness’ of the artist at work painting. Brilliant!

-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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