An event is only allowed to call itself annual once it has occurred more than a single time, but the very first Garden Party and Fashion Show at Featherstone Center For The Arts, on Mother’s Day weekend in 2010 already had the stamp of tradition to it. It was then that now-director-emeritus Francine Kelly and executive director Ann Smith, along with their amazing team of artists and organizers, put up a humongous white tent in the green field behind the campus buildings. Pots of tea were brought to the dozen-plus large round tables, platters of tiny sandwiches and pastries lined a buffet table, and a runway the length of a basketball court was trod upon by models of all ages, sizes, and pizzazz, strutting that year’s ensembles from some of our Island’s fabled fashion designers.
On Saturday, May 10, the fifth annual Garden Party and Fashion Show number five, following on the heels of four high glam events, had the luster of the queen’s Silver Jubilee. Champagne was placed at every table, platters of canapés and desserts were brought to guests rather than guests to them, and five designers caught the Featherstone wave this year, chief among them Island fashionista for 35 years, Ms. Lorraine Parish, whose studio and shop front State Road as it climbs steeply from Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
Painter Margot Datz, a longtime friend and devout wearer of Ms. Parish’s clothes, her long Botticelli red hair aswirl around her shoulders, kicked off festivities with the observation that the Island boasts three landmarks: 1) Natural, 2) Man-made, and 3) The fabulously high concentration of talented individuals. After this introduction, show director Marla Blakey punched the music console while at the same time reeling off names of designers, models, and garments as if a single Oscar Award host MC’d all the categories and broke open every last envelope.
Saturday’s models were all 50-plus years of age “And Fabulous.” The eldest, Margot Weston, coming up upon her 100th birthday in December, looking diminutive and gorgeous in a pale green organza gown from Ms. Parish’s studio, her arm held — not that she needed any special handling, clearly — by black-tie decked Eugene Kelly.
Ms. Parish’s haute couture (satin “Jackie” jackets and wasp-waisted gowns) contrasted with the casual lines of Once In A Blue Moon and Sun Dog — two Edgartown boutiques — along with the lyrical lines of Judy Hartford’s Bananas outfits. You could almost hear the Mozart score from the movie “Elvira Madigan” as model Wendy Palmer drifted past in ruffles of pale mauve and lace. Finally, an homage was paid to Keren Tonnesen’s Vital Signs line, each item of apparel stamped with Ms. Tonnesen’s signature logo.
For those of us drawn back to this amazing event year after year, we’re all on face-to-face terms with the models, most of whom have been featured time and again. Tall, thin, and gorgeous make for a good starting point for being invited back — Genevieve Jacobs, Basia Jaworski, and Stephanie Mashek come to mind, along with and so many more — but there are also petite ladies with verve and style, such as the incomparably elegant Anne Gallagher wearing, among other ensembles, a Lorraine Parish black-and-white polka dot ladies-who-lunch number with a big white bonnet and a triple strand of extra-large pearls.
Oh, and speaking of jewelry, where would a fashion show of this caliber be without it? From Ronni Simon’s beads and gold wrought with the fine texture of lace, to Eleanor Stanwood’s lavish splashes of color, to Marie Allen’s delicate strands of multi-colored beads, the already dramatic garments could not have been better served.
The handful of men who have ever shown themselves to be good sports (as well as nifty runway dancers) need to be recognized too: author Tom Dresser, the insanely hot Lynn Gordon (dressed most notably on his several runway glides this past Saturday in a western hat, tan leather vest, and cowboy boots), dapper Alex Palmer, and black-tie escort both for Ms. Weston and for his wife, the lovely Chetta Kelley, and the above-mentioned Eugene. As ever, the brilliant ceramicist Washington Ledesma showed up in whatever anyone wanted him to wear, which, this past weekend included a straw boater hat and a tennis racket that he deployed to lob a few balls into the upper staging of orange and marigold yellow Japanese lanterns. A tall man in a leather vest, with a telephoto lens around his neck, and with black hair flowing back as if he were mounted astride a galloping steed, was presented to us as Luciano, no last name, but he was hardly in need of anything else to qualify him for total smolderingness.
The highest ‘tude and strut awards go to Gretchen Tucker-Underwood, Harriet Bernstein, Sandra Grymes, Anna Edey (also barefoot in her dreamy periwinkle blue Vital Signs ensemble), Jenifer Parkinson, and Gayle Rogers. Plus, because everyone was marvelous and modelicious, let us roll credits for Greta Bro, Jackie Budd, Carole Charlin, Gretchen Coleman, Mary Lou Delong, Pam Flam, Janice Frame, Fala Freeman, Carla Giles-Cuch, Francine Kelly, Kanta Lipsky, Grace McGroarty, Alida O’Loughlin, Julie Robinson, Sue Hruby, Annette Sandrock, and Marilyn Wortman.
Makeup was supervised by Patrice Donofrio, music prepared by Len Morris, and Carleen Cordwell put in a huge job of work as fashion show assistant.
Now how will they ever top themselves for the sixth annual Garden and Fashion Show next year? Perhaps they should call it the first anniversary of the fifth?