Sold-out FIT Couture Council Luncheon Dazzles at Lincoln Center

Dr. Joyce Brown, Gabriela Hearst, Dana Thomas, Dr. Valerie Steele,
Photo by Zach Hilty for BFA

The only way to rid oneself of the end of summer blues is by attending the $2,000 per person Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Couture Council luncheon which is held every Wednesday after Labor Day and contains 350 of some of the most beautiful and well heeled ladies in the United States.

Wednesday September 6, 2023 beginning at 11:30 AM at the David H. Koch Theater at 20 Lincoln Center Plaza lovely gamines began making their way across the Lincoln Center promenade on one of the most sweltering days of the year. Nothing to fret about, most of the 350 Senoras looked like they just arrived from an editorial photo shoot.

Martha Stewart, Bronson van Wyck and Eleanora Kennedy as Julie Macklowe pours her whiskey – Photo Lieba Nesis

Presenting sponsor Nordstrom joined Co-Chairs Lara Meiland Shaw and Melissa Mafrige Mithoff along with FIT President and Director Joyce F. Brown and Valerie Steele. As to whom was attaining the coveted 2023 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion, that would be none other than Gabriela Hearst the Creative Director of Gabriela Hearst and Chloe.

Jean Shafiroff & Glenda Bailey – Photo by Lieba Nesis

Past honorees have included Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Alber Elbaz, Thom Browne, Ralph Rucci, Valentino, and Dries Van Noten. Gabriela Hearst is one of a small group of chosen women: a worthy superstar of whom little is known.

Sharon Jacob – Photo by Joshua Kamei

After entering the fashion world 20 years ago, Gabriela rose to fame as the head of Chloe and one of the forerunners of fashion sustainability before it was mainstream. The 46-year-old Gabriela Perezutti grew up on her family ranch in Uruguay which she currently operates. In 2004, her first foray into fashion, she started a collection of silk screened T-shirts depicting a winged woman on a horse and slowly expanded to include ready-to-wear and shoes-becoming a member of the CFDA in 2012.

Katherine Boulud, Courtney Schlesinger, Di Petroff, Gillian Hearst, Krista Cori
Photo Lieba Nesis

In 2015 her eponymous label, Gabriela Hearst, launched and quickly became renowned for its high quality garments and revolutionary use of innovative materials; 2017 Resort’s collection utilized anti-radiation fabric to shield against mobile phones.

Liz Peek, Hilary Geary Ross, Martha McGarry – Photo Lieba Nesis

Continuing her iconoclastic ways the following year, Gabriela became the only brand to ever partner with an Israeli startup to use Tipa compostable bio-plastics for her packaging as an alternative to plastic allowing the compost to decompose in 24 weeks. Her line’s first 2016 bag, the Nina, began as a limited edition of 20 priced at a reasonable $2,000 and available exclusively by special order-it currently has a lengthy waiting list and clients including Amal Clooney and Meghan Markle.

Lauren Day Roberts & Marilyn Kirschner

Gabriela shuns the spotlight and rarely seeks out celebrity partnerships except for numerous collaborations with First Lady Jill Biden including the ivory dress of 2021 she wore for her inauguration-which is now in the Smithsonian National Museum. She received the coveted CFDA American Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2020, the same year Gabriela became the Creative Director of Chloe-the first woman from both Uruguay and the United States to head a Paris fashion house. Her husband John Augustine Hearst is the grandson of renowned publisher William Randolph Hearst and together they have three children.

Co-chairs Lara Meiland Shaw and Melissa Mithoff – Photo Lieba Nesis

Gabriela is tall, slender and regal much like the models who wear her clothing and seemed embarrassed by all the accolades. The crowd was the usual group of luminaries including: Martha Stewart, philanthropist Jean Shafiroff who purchased a table, Indre Rockefeller, Ali Wentworth, Glenda Bailey, Rebecca Vanyo, Sharon Jacob, Nicole Miller, Janna Bullock, Susan Fales-Hill, Kathy Prounis, Simone Levinson, Yaz Hernandez, Rebecca Seawright, Dayssi Kanavos, Liz Peek, Hilary Geary Ross, Kara Ross, Audrey Gruss, Fern Mallis, Candace Bushnell, Ramona Singer, Eleanora Kennedy, Hal Rubinstein, Zani Gugelmann, Muffie Potter Aston, Meredith Marks and Bronson Van Wyck.

Julie Macklowe, Yaz Hernández, Simone Levinson, Jane DeFlorio, Ting Ji with Macklowe Whiskey – Photo Lieba Nesis

This was the kind of luncheon where mega-mogul Julie Macklowe ran from table to table to pour her Macklowe whiskey for enthusiastic friends. Julie, one of 200 worldwide registered Whiskey Ambassadors with a perfect skill for nosing and tasting, has produced the Ferrari of single malts and the waiting list from whiskey aficionados for Macklowe’s premier brand has gone global.

There are a couple of signature elements to this luncheon that make it top ten of the year the first being its short duration lasting no more than two hours and more importantly, its extraordinary venue-the Second Floor of the David H. Koch Theater.

Steven and Austin Hearst – Photo Lieba Nesis

Moreover, this year’s vibe was the friendliest I can remember with most attendees returning from a lengthy Hamptons and European Summer, and more than ready to hit the New York social scene. To fully absorb the quality of the group it was necessary to peruse each and every table as a plethora of fashion stars were hidden amongst the masses. Everyone seemed to love the afternoon.

Griffin Greenwood, Mia Mithoff, Michael Mithoff, Joyce Echols – Photo Lieba Nesis

Yes there were some notables missing including Excel Brands Ken Downing, Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo and Vogue’s Anna Wintour. But the guests who helped raise a staggering $1 million all of which will be used to for the FIT Museum, were an extraordinary group of fashion devotees.

Rebecca Vanyo, Adrien Lesser, Lauren Levison all wearing Hearst – Photo Lieba Nesis

One threesome who were perfectly attired in Gabriela Hearst concoctions were fashion star Rebecca Vanyo, Lauren Levison, and Adrien Lesser. Levison extolled her friend Gabriela whom she has known for over a decade remarking that all Hearst pieces of leather are made in the most sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion with the use of recyclables and organically raised animals.

“If you are a sheep you want to be a sheep that ends up as a cashmere sweater on the Hearst runway” declared Levison, as she noted all her high quality Hearst attire have lasted through the years due to Hearst revolutionizing the fashion landscape.

Jamee Gregory, Audrey Gruss – Photo Lieba Nesis

Other fans of Gabriela included tennis star Maria Sharapova and chef extraordinaire Daniel Humm who both lauded Hearst for her epic designs and friendship. Humm, the four star chef of Eleven Madison Park, noted how design and cooking are similar as both contain seasonal changes and meticulous attention to detail.

Maria Sharapova Photo by Zach Hilty for BFA

Hearst received her award by declaring the greatest advice she received was 20 years ago when someone told her “don’t believe your own hype.” On that humble note guests headed home with a much desired $75 gift card from Nordstrom which I misplaced in my uber-an unfortunate harbinger for my upcoming fashion week.

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Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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