The 41st Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards: The Met Gala of Hats!

Over 1250 guests (primarily women) descended upon Central Park’s lush Conservatory Gardens on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the Forty-First Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon hosted by the Women’s Committee and the Board of Trustees of the Central Park Conservancy. A total of $4.3 million was raised.

The Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon is the signature event of the Women’s Committee. This invitation – only honors some of the Park’s biggest supporters. This year’s Co-Chairs were Kathryn Beal, Kristy Korngold, Melanie McLennan, and Suzy Welch. The 2023 honorees were Sara Cedar Miller, Yesim Philip, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP. The presenting sponsor was Harry Winston, Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co, the Corporate Sponsor, and the Premier Sponsor, St. John.

Among the very eclectic guests were Fe Fendi, Sharon Coplan Hurowitz, Jean Shafiroff, Michael Bloomberg, Martha Stewart, B. Michael, Veronica Beard, Lela Rose, R. Couri Hay, Di Mondo, Andrew Yu, Arthur Zeckendorf, Ann Billingsley, David Patrick Columbia, Ali Wentworth, Lauren Levison, Jamee Gregory, Hilary Geary Ross, Barbara Tober, Stefano Tonchi, who just launched Palmer, a luxurious print title about Palm Beach, Florida, and actress Mariska Hargitay.

Mariska told me this was her first year attending this event. While Mariska has been invited in the past, the taping of her popular TV show, “Law & Order,” always prohibited her from attending.

There is no question that Bill Cunningham put this event on the map decades ago, and it seems to get bigger and more outrageously fabulous each year, especially since the pandemic. The event has nothing to do with what’s happening in real life (thank goodness), good taste vs. bad taste, or trends du jour. It exists in its own bubble.

With the Met Gala on Monday and so much focus on Karl Lagerfeld, it was hard not to notice many guests (men included) opting for Chanel, combinations of black and white, and pearls. One woman, Rebecca Vanyo, wore pumps entirely covered in pearls.

FYI, it’s not lost on me that the Premier Sponsor, St. John is a company best known for its classic wool and rayon yarn knits and Chanel inspired jackets. Like the mailman, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can deter the attendees from wearing whatever they have planned. Many go to great lengths to create an outfit that complements their hat.

Even though it felt more like the first Wednesday in March, not the first Wednesday in May, the weather was surprisingly good. The lunch and award ceremony always takes place beneath a big white tent, but because the rain was predicted, it necessitated a clear tent to be erected for cocktails.

Fortunately, the sun broke through, but it was unseasonably cool, and a few women came prepared, wearing furs. One woman had a knitted cap that would be perfect for apres ski.

It’s not only the weather that seems unimportant in one’s choice of outfit but also the time of day. Many are dressed for the evening rather than an awards luncheon that begins at 11 am.

The food is not the focus, but it’s always great. Lunch yesterday consisted of Parmesan Palmiers, Cucumber Salmon Salad, and Lemon Honeycomb Pave for dessert. I doubt many of the ultra thin women indulged in most of it lol.

Along with chic pantsuits, great coats, and cocktail dresses, several women were wearing full-on evening gowns perfect for the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera. I even spotted a dress with a dramatic train.

Sharon Jacob, who sits on the Central Park Conservancy Women’s Committee Board of Directors, wore a beautifully shaped ivory dress by Christopher John Rogers with a lovely mint green hat by Kokin. Sharon would look at home at the upcoming Coronation. If nothing else, it could double as a wedding gown.

I always like to see people being creative and looking individualist, which is sometimes challenging in a sea of flowered frocks and hats. After a while, it becomes very “garden variety”.

Among the women who really stood out, at least three (Lela Rose, shown above, and Darice Fadeyi, MD, seen in opening shot) wore hats designed by Rodney Patterson for ESENSHEL, the subject of a recent article. I chose a towering red ESENSHEL hat, which was certainly a conversation starter.

One of the most humorous moments was when I spotted a man descending the stairs wearing what looked like a lampshade. I asked him if it was, and he said yes! Christopher Spitzmiller, who has a store located at 248 West 35th Street, has created one-of-a-kind lamps for over 20 years. Hysterical!

Photos by Laurel Marcus & Marilyn Kirschner

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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.

1 Comment
  1. Loved the coverage on the hat event!
    New to me and one I will never miss again I marveled at, fell in love with and smiled at so many of the creations you have shown in your post!
    Bravo Marilyn!
    You bring positivity, beauty and surprise to often more serious, sober, and sometimes difficult times…
    My hat is off to you!????

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