A few years back, our young editor, and illustrator, Lara Glaister introduced us to the The Gordon Parks Foundation Gala, taking place this year on Tuesday, June 6,  and we have been fans of the organization and its brilliant boyish Director, Peter Kunhardt, ever since.  Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth century photography as well as a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice.  The Foundation preserves the work and makes it available to the public. 

Peter explains how the honor is bestowed, “Each year we come together to celebrate the incredible and lasting legacy of Gordon Parks and to recognize the artists, humanitarians, and philanthropists who are making a meaningful impact in the arts and across humanity.  We are so incredibly proud to recognize this year’s group of honorees, and to introduce our inaugural class of fellows who are exploring themes of social justice in their work—an issue that is becoming more and more urgent with each passing day in our current political climate.”

Lara followed Gordon’s career from her early days in Paris.    “I first studied Gordon Parks as a photographer and recall witnessing his utter depth of talent spanning from documenting racial injustice in the streets of Chicago’s Southside, to the streets of Paris and photographing fashion in a new light for Vogue magazine. He was the first fashion photographer to capture his subjects in motion– Creating a more realistic approach towards fashion and makes the work still feel contemporary to this day. It makes it only appropriate that this event has become one of the most fashionable events of the year. The Fashion gods come to support this amazing cause such as: Karl Lagerfeld, Russel Simmons, Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Wintour, Bruce Weber, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger… just to name a few!! Not to mention the amount of musical, theatrical and artistic talent in that room.  It is NOT to be missed!!!  I will never forget meeting Karl himself two years in a row! “

Liza Olympitis, Karl Lagerfeld, Lara Glaister 

Joey Wolffer, Lara Glaisster, Karl Lagerfeld, Liza Olympitis

“I became involved with The Gordon Parks Foundation since the very first event back in 2007 through one of my dearest friends, Peter Kunhardt.  Words cannot describe how proud I am of him and the direction he has taken this foundation.  The idea of preserving the iconic archive of this profound American artist has become so much more and helps to support many, many young students by providing scholarships in all of the fields that Gordon Parks himself excelled in. He was a social activist first and foremost yet took on the very successful roles as photographer- both commercial and civic, film director and producer, musician and composer, painter and writer.”

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I find the photo on this year’s invitation a captivating snapshot of an earlier era filled with bright hope and change.    Stylistically more formal, men wore suits or shirts and ties, women back then, donned hats and day dresses and seemingly de rigueur . . . smoking in public!     It was taken in 1963, early in a decade that would see the country transformed into an idealistic culture, not without its disturbing conflicts, that was lead by and for those outside of the norms of “the establishment.”   It was a youthful revolution that succeeded in relaxing some of the prescribed, restrictive conventions.  The youngest of two older sisters, I watch it through their eyes, and remember it as both exciting and terrifying.  

In terms of fashion, the early 60’s mirrored the lingering mores of the late 50’s as so brilliantly depicted by Janie Bryant, the award winning costume designer of Mad Men.  Her attention to details both captured and enhanced the feeling of the times.  The “fit and flare,” is experiencing a resurgence today because of it’s universally feminine and flattering silhouette.     Snug on the bodice, then flared at the waist where many of us need a little camouflage.    Hilary’s picks are an example of the early 50’s but with updated panache.   Behold the glorious updo, and inhale the sultry smoke.   

Hilary notes, “I think this evening, with its mix of fashion and music, calls for a bit of sparkle.  I agree with Karen, that the fitted top and full skirt are flattering on most body types. When wearing blue I tend to pair it with silver accessories like these. And keep the look simple to let the dress stand out. I love the bell sleeves on this Marchesa Notte dress, it is covered up but sexy. I kept in the same tone for my accessories. Less is more for me. But with some sequins and gold luster you are sure to turn heads in a room full of stars.”  

dresses: David Meister Sequin Cocktail Dress  $595  /  Marchesa Notte Metallic Embroidered Bell Sleeve Dress  $795

accessories: Oscar De La Renta Pearly Crystal Earrings  $275    Oscar De La Renta Pave Three-Drop Earrings  $445

Jimmy Choo Camille Glittered Clutch  $950  /  Edie Parker Backlit Acrylic Clutch  $995

Aquazzura First Kiss Leather Ankle Strap Sandals  $750   /   Giuseppe Zanotti Crystal-Embellished Suede Slingback  $995

The transformation came relatively quickly as a few years  later, the fashion of the sixties mimicked the joie de vivre of the times – hemlines up, necklines naughty, and skirts skin tight.  Women scandalously stripping off their knickers and bras and  “letting it all hang out”    Who could forget one of the most provocative moments in Mad Men history, Megan’s saucy rendition of “Zou Bisou” sung to the dashing and devilish Don Draper on his 40th birthday.   Want a little smile – watch it again! 

These Milly party frocks are timeless celebrations of the Little Black Dress.  I find with Milly, there is usually a goodly sized hem to let down if it is a tad too short for your personal style.   SJP’s Bowed Party shoes are tperfect underfoot in either black or hot pink and the Oscar Earrings and Jimmy Choo Clutch continue the theme of “let’s party.”     

 dresses: Milly Italian Cady Selena Mini Dress  $435  /  Milly Italian Cody Nicole Dress  $380

accessories: Oscar De La Renta Flower Clip-On Earrings  $350

Oscar De La Renta  Beaded Tassel Earrings  / Jimmy Choo Camoflower Clutch  $1025  /   SJP By Jessica Parker Satin Point Toe Pumps  $395

David Patrick Columbia has his own personal connection with Parks.  “ My mother was a friend of “Parks” in the 1950s when she was a copy editor for Life magazine. In 1958, my parents were by chance with Parks on the cruise ship Queen of Bermuda. They were on holiday while Parks was traveling to cover Princess Soroya’s divorce from the Shah of Iran. One night, Parks shot a photograph of my mother during dinner. At the end of her life she told me, as she gave me the photograph, that it was on that trip that she became pregnant with me.

Gordon Parks and the Foundation have touched so many lives both visually and emotionally.  He is and consistent inspiration to artists and humanitarians who have come after in the pursuit of dignity, equality and freedom.      This year’s  Awardees are those who continue to impact the world of performing and visual arts and humanitarianism including:  The Honorable Congressman John Lewis,  philanthropist Alexander Soros, singer and activist Mavis Staples, musician Jon Batiste, American Express Chairman and CEO, Kenneth Chenault and his wife, philanthropist Kathryn Chenault. This year’s dinner and auction will feature a special performance by Grammy and Academy-Award Winning Recording Artist Common. Guest presenters for the evening include Late Night with Stephen Colbert host, Stephen Colbert; historian and Harvard University professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; and singer, Usher Raymond IV.     

For tickets and information, please go to Gordon Parks Foundation.  

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