New York Botanical Garden Conservatory Ball Hauls You Off to Hawaii

A luau in the garden to celebrate the current exhibition of Georgia O’Keefe: Visions of Hawai’i was the theme of last night’s New York Botanical Garden Conservatory Ball. Of course, this was not your “garden-variety” luau –no pig roasting on a spit– but there were hula dancers, waiters in black and white Hawaiian shirts, women in “formal luau wear” (a tough macadamia nut to crack, believe me) and plenty of peacocks roaming around.

Photo by Laurel Marcus

Ok, not actual peacocks, although that would have been cool; they were the human version — men decked out in floral, brocade or otherwise Gucci-esque dinner jackets, tuxedos in colors, floral embellished evening slippers, or in the case of DiMondo full-on yellow paillettes. Now, not only do we have to compete with other women, we’ve got men trying to outshine us as well!

Raymond Vargas
Photo by Laurel Marcus

The event was to celebrate NYBG’s CEO of 29 years Gregory Long and his remarkable tenure which saw the revitalization and elevation of this great organization and its facilities. The exhibition of tropical plants takes its cue from pioneering American modernist Georgia O’Keefe’s 1939 immersion in the Hawaiian islands.

Mary Wallach
Photo by Laurel Marcus

Curator Theresa Papanikolas, Ph.D. of the Honolulu Museum of Art sought to recreate a singular focus on 20 of O’Keefe’s depictions of Hawai’i from a nine-week sojourn while on a commission to produce images for a Hawaiian Pineapple Company promotional campaign. I was looking forward to seeing some of her artwork alongside the birds of paradise and other exotic flora, but those are in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Gallery which we didn’t get to view last night.

Left to right: Catherine Marlette Waddell, Gillian Steel, Gregory Long, Deborah Goodrich Royce, Gillian Miniter, Alexandra Lebenthal,  Sigourney Weaver, & Maureen Chilton
Photo Courtesy The New York Botanical Garden. © / Angela Pham

Committee members Alexandra Lebenthal, Gillian Minter, Deborah Goodrich Royce, Gillian Steel and Catherine Marlette Waddell, formed a receiving line as you exit your car which always makes a lovely welcoming sight as you arrive for the cocktail hour. Actress Sigourney Weaver wore a custom gown designed for her by Hawaiian fashion designer Manaola Yap who will also be participating in NYBG’s Fashion Weekend, July 28-29 as part of the exhibition’s programming.

Two mint clad models wearing Graff Diamonds
Photo by Laurel Marcus

I always enjoy strolling through the beautiful gardens with a glass of something bubbly while taking in the fashion choices of the guests. This year the jewelry sponsor was Graff — diamonds were dripping off the two mint clad models, posed up on pedestals for the early part of the evening like Greek goddesses. There were also display cases of breathtaking gems vying for your attention (and bank account) although I didn’t see anyone trying on the jewelry as they did in previous years with other sponsors such as Verdura.

Jean Shafiroff  in a gown by Victor dE Souza on the right
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Valentino was the fashion sponsor although I saw only one or two gowns that I recognized as Valentino on attendees. Other fashion people included ’80s knockoff king Victor Costa, handbag and hat designer Eric Javits, Fe Fendi, and designer extraordinaire Victor dE Souza who outdid himself with Philanthropist and muse Jean Shafiroff’s unique tiered and jeweled ball gown.

Marilyn Kirschner & Laurel Marcus

Lookonline’s Marilyn Kirschner wore one of the most creative and eye-catching looks which served as a conversation starter — a limited edition Alice + Olivia Iris Apfel tribute skirt from their collection earlier this year for Bergdorf Goodman. Victor Costa, whose clothing I wore a ton of in the ’80s and sadly didn’t recognize the man himself, asked to photograph Marilyn as did others.

Ilir & Dorota Mani
Photo by Laurel Marcus

As this event draws a decidedly more “Old Guard” Palm Beach type of crowd, I quipped that wearing a skirt honoring a nonagenarian albeit a super hip one — was appropriate. Despite the breezy, cool temperature last night, the Conservatory Ball typically marks the end of the spring gala season and it’s off to the Hamptons you go dancing away the summer at all the high profile charity balls.

Shelby White
Photo by Laurel Marcus

While this event was lovely I’d have to say that last year’s Dale Chihuly theme was more exciting — those neon glass sculptures enlivened the evening especially when they lit up against the darkening sky.

The Dinner Tent
Photo by Laurel Marcus

This year’s dinner tent was quite spectacular decked out in traditional Polynesian splendor, and the grounds are worth a visit now through October 28.  Proceeds from last evening’s event go to support Children’s Education and plant research and conservation programs at NYBG.

-Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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