Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Antique Garden Furniture Fair Preview Party at the New York Botanical Garden

With Designer Chairman Fen Fulk.
After my recent trip to the beautiful Orchid Show, I made a return trip to one of my favorite places, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, with TD to attend the Antique Garden Furniture Fair Preview Party and Collectors' Plant Sale. The Preview Party kicks off the weekend-long Antique Garden Furniture Fair when leading antique dealers offer furniture, art, and accessories inspired by the garden for sale. I'm a big fan of garden antiques used indoors; I love things that bring nature and flowers inside and give a room a natural, relaxed feeling.

At the Botanical Garden, the Antique Fair was set up in a spacious tent next to the stunning glass Enid Haupt A. Conservatory. In the courtyard between the Conservatory and the tent, Elle Decor, one of the event sponsors, presented a glamorous garden vignette created by the magazine's interiors editor Robert Rufino. Mannequins languidly dressed in ballgowns made out of Chinese newspapers and covers of Elle Decor were posed around the latest Roche Bobois furniture collection. 

The Collectors' Plant Sale was well underway. Collectors arrive early to scoop up treasured plants. Martha Stewart and Bette Midler had already come and gone by the time we arrived.

Inside the tent, the party was in full swing with about 500 guests in attendance. We chatted with Michael Boodro, Elle Decor Editor in Chief and Honorary Chairman of the event, and then ran into Ken Fulk (pictured above) who we had met at John Derian's opening for artist Hugo Guinness. The celebrated San Francisco-based designer, who was resplendent in a green, floral, bell-bottom Gucci suit, was the evening's Designer Chairman. Ken told me that jeweler Mish Tworkowki, an event Chairman, had first enlisted him to get involved. "Gregory Long [the longtime President and Chief Executive Officer of the Garden] gave me a beautiful tour proving that this is the most important garden in the world," said Ken. "I love the Botanical Garden."

Ken came up with a yellow and black bumble bee theme to give the party a fun, "buzzy" flair that ran though out with fabrics, napkins and accessories. To enhance the theme, Ken told me that three giant bee hives were constructed in San Francisco and shipped to New York. The gorgeous L.A. DJ Kiss spun records inside one of the big bee hives –

We strolled around and perused the offerings. It was a chic, good-looking crowd  – a favorite ensemble among the women guests was a simple, short evening dress with a short matching evening coat with bracelet sleeves plus slingback shoes. I love that kind of style that is polished and elegant but also easy and effortless at the same time.
There were handsome urns at Finnegan Gallery from Chicago –

and a wall of colorful watercolor botanical paintings at Earl Vandebar of Knightsbridge –

These metal garden hoops hung on a charcoal wall looked like a modern abstract painting, like a Cy Twombly –

Buying and packing at Withington & Company Antiques from Portsmouth, Maine –

At the end of the party, on the way out, candles lined the Conservatory courtyard reflecting pool - 

and dusk was falling on the Conservatory.

It was a lovely night in New York.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Manus x Machina at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Chanel Haute Couture Winter 2015 wedding gown is the centerpiece of the exhibit.
I had the pleasure this week of attending the preview of the new exhibition at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is called "Manus x Machina, Fashion in an Age of Technology" and was produced by Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton. Given the title, I thought this show would be about modern technology, and many of the women who attended the Met Ball Gala later that night wore silvery metal robot-like dresses, but to me that missed the mark as this show is more about processes and techniques, and how the handmade (manus) can combine with machine-made (machina) in clothing. The show celebrates how technology carries craft into the future - kind of like a digital blog about beautiful things.

For the preview on a day when the museum was closed to the public, guests were directed to the Robert Lehman Wing, where I have never seen a costume show staged before. This wing consists of a two-floor circle that visitors walk around but for this show the center was ingeniously filled in with a temporary floor creating an inner gallery where the Chanel gown pictured above was housed. OMA, the architectural firm, did an amazing job designing a cathedral-like environment for the show with gauzy white scrims complete with arches and alcoves. The mystical "An Ending (Ascent)" by Brian Eno played overheard. The whole setting was very serene and ecclesiastical, which I thought was a striking juxtaposition given the machine technology theme.

The Chanel wedding gown provided the inspiration for the show. It's made out of a scuba knit synthetic material and is machine sewn. The pattern on the long train in the back was digitally manipulated to make it look pixelated. But then the gold metallic pigment was hand-applied, and pearls and gemstones were embroidered by hand, thus illustrating the marriage of the machine-made and handmade.

I circled around the exhibit, trying to take in the 170 garments, dating back to the early 1990s, on display.
Shimmering Louis Vuitton dresses were shown next to turquoise Norman Norells -

and artificial flowers in pretty pastels were applied to Prada dresses (center) -

I walked down to the lower level and while I was admiring jewel-tone Mary McFadden pleated gowns, New York Social photographer and writer Jill Krementz snapped this pic of me - 

You can read Jill's very thorough report on the preview and show here.

Is was time to hear the prepared remarks in the stunning Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court. Thomas Campbell, the director of The Met welcomed the crowd, and then Jony Ives, the chief designer of Apple, which sponsored the show, spoke. Andrew Bolton (pictured below) said that the show is "a celebration of the art of making, using hand and machine," and offered "a temple to the beauty and artistry of fashion." Anna Wintour, resplendent in a colorful Prada dress and coat, sat with her three British compatriots in the front row as well.

After the remarks I returned to the galleries to look at more of the garments.
In a gallery devoted to tailoring, a small team of Chanel suits proved their timelessness –

This dress that looks unconstructed is actually a Dior haute couture ensemble by John Galliano designed to appear dramatically unfinished -

A jacket by John Galliano for Maison Margiela is hand-trimmed with black lacquered toy cars. He really is a genius.

A dress by Gareth Pugh is hand-embroidered with clear plastic drinking straws around the neck. The see-through scrims and shadows created an ethereal setting.

It was hard to leave this show that really offers an escape from the reality of the street. But soon it was time to go. On the way out I passed empty halls of marble sculptures -

and the majestic Greek and Roman Gallery.

It really was a dream.

Blog bonus: Hear Andrew Bolton talking about the new exhibit in this video:

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Design on a Dime Benefit

The Elle Decor vignette, above, and Elle Decor Editor in Chief Michael Boodro with designer Robin Baron, left.

The other night TD and I walked up three blocks in Chelsea to the Metropolitan Pavilion to attend a wonderful annual event - the Design on a Dime Benefit where you can "design on a dime," thanks to the great deals to be had. The event was founded in 2004 by designer James Huniford to benefit Housing Works, an  organization in New York that provides services and housing to the homeless and those living with HIV/AIDS. Top designers create inspirational room vignettes, and at the VIP Opening Night Reception that we attended, guests can shop the vignettes for merchandise that is discounted up to 80 percent off retail prices with the proceeds going to support Housing Works.

Elle Decor magazine was one of the sponsors and Editor in Chief Michael Boodro was one of the co-chairs, along with Alessandra Branca, George Oliphant and Nicole Gibbons. This year, almost 1,300 attendees were on hand to shop vignettes created by 68 designers. The event is quite a scene as stylish guests rush to get first dibs on furniture and accessories in the chic vignettes. Guests jostle and rub shoulders good-naturedly to peruse the offerings. Bars located strategically throughout the immense space plus great music playing overhead add to the festive atmosphere. Triumphant shoppers carry their new purchases to the cashier and out the front door.

TD and I roamed the aisles and caught up with some friends. It's always a fun event with a well-dressed crowd and a lot to look at. This year, its twelfth year, the Design on a Dime Benefit raised $1.2 million for Housing Works. That's what I call style with substance.