Masks Off, Hats On!

Photos by Marilyn Kirschner

The cover of The New Yorker May 24th says it all. New York feels like Sleeping Beauty, who woke up after napping for 100 years. The most recent proof that the city is finally coming alive is the return of the FLO Awards luncheon hosted by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy.

Canceled in 2020 like everything else, the wildly popular ritual of spring was back on the calendar this year, the first major event held in Manhattan since the pandemic. According to Paul Lerner, whose company, Optimist Consulting, handles the press for the event, 2.8 million dollars was raised. The price of a table was 15k, 20k, or 25k.

Alexandra Lebenthal and Eleanora Kennedy with daughter

Among the 900 guests who will have attended over two days, Tuesday, May 18th and Wednesday, May 19th, are Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Diana Taylor, Laurie Tisch, Suzie Aijala, Ainsley Earhardt, Anne Harrison, Gillian Hearst, Thomas Kempner, Eric Javits, Eleanora Kennedy, Elaine Langone, Alexandra Lebenthal, Gillian Miniter, Somers Farkas, Sharon Hurowitz, Margo Nederlander, Elyse Newhouse, Lauren Santo Domingo. Central Park Conservancy President & CEO Betsey Smith will preside over a luncheon on Wednesday. Fortunately, there was no need to make use of alternative rain dates. The weather could not have been more glorious.

Lunch at Bethesda Terrace

While the event is traditionally held at one location- the Conservatory Garden, this year, they made use of this and 5 others, all within the park naturally: Conservatory Water, Glade Arch, Bethesda Terrace, Cleopatra’s Needle, King Jagiello Plaza. I couldn’t help but wonder exactly how the team decided to divide up the attendees. It seemed like it would be a logistical nightmare. I reached out to Paul, who said he could not comment because he was not involved in that decision. Paul did offer that more dignitaries (like Mayor Bloomberg) would be present on Wednesday.

One big change is that there was no cocktail reception this year. But that didn’t stop guests from mingling with one another before being seated for an alfresco lunch of Citrus Chicken Salad, Cornbread Madeleine, and Petits Fours, catered by Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships.

We were often standing just inches away from one another. While there is ‘mask confusion’ around the country. New York officially lifted its mask and social distancing mandates for fully vaccinated people on Monday.

The few guests that arrived wearing masks didn’t leave them on too long and most came ‘sans’ masks. But they did come with their hats. And boy, oh boy, do they take their hats seriously. For some, one hat isn’t enough. One woman wore a hat and carried a hat-shaped bag by Eugenia Kim.

Kokin, who made my hat, told me that he was swamped this season; some of his many customers changed their minds later; some needed a hat for both days. I guess they wanted to make up for the lost time.

Much has changed this past year. What hasn’t changed is the desire to get dressed up and show off. Even though the effect of seeing thousands of (mainly) women under one tent is watered down when it’s divided into 10 separate lunches over two days, the event offered enough eye candy. The FLO Awards luncheon is always like one giant garden party with guests dressing up for the occasion.

It’s all about celebrating the beauty of Central Park, so naturally, there are a lot of flowers (flower hats, flower fascinators, flower dresses) and flower colors everywhere. Even on the men. For example, celebrated peacock Di Mondo wore a splashy floral printed blazer by Tom Ford. His hat was my hubby Eric Javits, a vision in pastel.

Somers Farkas

Somers Farkas wore a flower-adorned portrait hat made of straw and a Badgley Mischka floral chiffon dress with a high low hemline. Somers told me it is from this season.

Sharon Hurowitz & Zach Weiss

Another guest who intended to pour money back into the economy by shopping is Zach Weiss a young man whose Thom Browne suit was a recent purchase. Many others recycled. Sharon Hurowitz confessed her Chanel dress and hat are a few years old.

Marilyn Kirschner

Meanwhile, for many women, donning a high heel can pose a challenge when you are used to being in flat shoes and sneakers so comfortable, they make you feel like you are walking on cloud nine. I covered three different lunches yesterday wearing my three-inch Chanel pumps. Two of them required walking through the park to get there. I woke up with a blister on my left foot. Ouch!

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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.