The 42nd Annual FLO Awards Luncheon at Central Park

Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Just as the Met Gala is always the first Monday in May, so the Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon (more familiarly known at the Central Park Hat Luncheon) is always the first Wednesday in May which, this year, fell on May 1st.

Alexandra Lebenthal, photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Much like the Met Gala this event just gets bigger and more costume-y every year – this being the 42nd Annual and the third time (the “hat trick”) that I’ve attended.  You could say that it’s becoming “old hat” but I don’t want to exhaust all my headwear puns so quickly.

Jean Shafiroff, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, & designer B Michael

The Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy is behind this shindig with proceeds raised (a hefty $4.65 million this year) earmarked towards the upkeep of the Conservancy– some of which is currently undergoing a makeover– as well as towards the Park’s general operation.  Total (wait for it) “head count” — a whopping 1,400 attendees (mostly women) at the sold out event – about 200 more than last year.

Photo by Laurel Marcus

Honorees were Diane Schaub, Curator of Gardens, Central Park Conservancy and The Conservatory Garden Staff.  Harry Winston, Inc was the Presenting Sponsor along with Corporate Sponsor JP Morgan Chase and Premier Sponsor St. John.  Co-Chairs were ILA Paliwal, Jennifer Saul Rich, Barbara H. Scott and Gillian Steel.

Photo by Laurel Marcus

The surprisingly bright sunshiny day was absolutely perfect if not a bit too warm especially inside the luncheon tent.  Besides every kind of hat/fascinator there was all manner of dress – from fur coats and fur wraps to bare sundresses and everything in between.

Center: Andrew Yu, Left: Katherine Birch, Right: Katherine Gage Boulud, photo by Laurel Marcus

Barbie pink seemed alarmingly resilient as well as other bright neon colors but so were pastels, primary colors, flower prints (I know – groundbreaking!), with a smattering of Chanel tweeds and designer botanicals.  There were those who majorly overdid it and those with a little restraint leading me to comment that in this situation perhaps “less is more.”

Center: Marilyn Kirschner & friends, photo by Laurel Marcus 

Joshua Kamei, the man behind the IG account Ladies of Madison Avenue who sported a black ESENSCHEL hat by Rodney Patterson (his hats were also worn by Dr Darice Fadeyi, designer Lela Rose and our own Marilyn Kirschner) with his gray suit, pointed out that he was not looking for the most outrageous but rather the most elegant to feature.

Left: Sharon Jacob & Right, Dr, Darice Fadeyi, photo by Laurel Marcus

As an eye palette cleanse of sorts there was a bridal theme of several donning all white and white lace including Sharon Jacob who regularly appears in full bridal regalia.  She had her dress but had left the making of her all-important bridal headpiece into the capable hands of Kokin – not seeing it until the last minute.  Too late to get bridal jitters but luckily it all worked out.

Three ladies, Photo by Laurel Marcus

Of course there was all manner of headwear from the sublime to the ridiculously over-the-top.  Obviously, nature inspired flora and fauna were popular including a few tributes to Central Park themes as well as the more avant garde headgear with interesting shapes, heights, and widths — some more face obscuring than others.

Photo by Laurel Marcus

Two women paid historical homage to the Park’s founders with cardboard figures of Olmsted, the Park’s superintendent and Calvert Vaux, the English architect who won first prize in an 1857 design competition to layout the expanding Park with the Greensward Plan – later hailed as a landmark in the history of landscape architecture. Another woman had a hat with a revolving clock tower facsimile of the Delacorte Clock outside the Central Park Zoo. 

Homage to Flaco the Owl, photo by Laurel Marcus

Speaking of the Zoo, Randi Zuckerberg (entrepreneur and sister of Mark) and Michelle Kluz (CEO of Stila Cosmetics)  presented a tribute to Flaco the Owl  — who you may remember escaped the Central Park Zoo in February 2023 after someone cut the protective netting around his cage. 

Colorful Duo, photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Sightings of Flaco, a rare Eurasian Eagle-Owl in and around the Park were covered by the media and a growing number of fans, while attempts to recapture him proved fruitless. 

Pastel ladies, photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Out of his natural environment and surroundings he valiantly survived for about 9 months in Manhattan but eventually the poisoned rats that he hunted got to him and he crashed into a building and succumbed to his injuries.  I asked one of the ‘owl gals” (who’s EA created it) about the weight of the hat – “It didn’t seem bad at first but now I’m feeling it.”   Heavy is the head that wears the owl – lol.’

Photo by Laurel Marcus

Another interesting but confounding ‘fit was worn by Andrew Yu in what appeared to be beekeeper netting over his face with a black magician’s cape festooned with hot pink sequin embroidery.  When I asked him what was his inspo for this lewk he told me that everything was recycled but he was interested in thematically echoing the world today.  “Everything is so dark now,” he explained citing family members and friends of Slavic and Jewish heritage and the dual wars having their chilling effect.

Laurel Marcus of Lookonline, photo by Marilyn Kirschner

A few others had politically motivated messages — Israel, Ukraine, an ERA banner (on former U.S. representative Carolyn Maloney) among them in their attire but mostly it was just a mass riot of color, pattern, shape and size. Speaking of darkness, I am always inclined to hole up in an unlit room with no visual stimulation of any kind after this event in order to restore my eyesight and equilibrium lest I go mad as a hatter.

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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.

  1. Laurel always has a fresh perspective and captures the essence of every event she covers. Great commentary and photos here

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