With the election (somewhat) behind us, and a vaccine on the horizon, Palm Beach has been in a cautiously optimistic mood. If nothing else, without a sitting president in residence, traffic should be better, particularly on weekends and holidays. “The season” officially kicks off this week with Thanksgiving, but with the CDC warning people not to travel it will be interesting to see how busy it actually gets here.
I can say that the last two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving have been quite busy, with small outdoor events and lots of dining al fresco. Masks and hand sanitizer remain de rigueur. Temperatures are taken before guests enter most apartment buildings, restaurants, schools, and other public facilities. And testing has become mandatory at some clubs.
Swifty’s Pool is working out swimmingly with its new outdoor dining, as is La Goulue Palm Beach thanks to its open French doors. The White Elephant Hotel, home of Nantucket favorite LoLa 41, officially opened in Palm Beach on November 4th. And Cafe L’Europe plans to re-open with outdoor dining this week, having undergone extensive renovations and with much of its staff coming from recently shuttered favorite, Cafe Jean-Pierre. Word on Le Bilboquet comes directly from one of its owners, Philippe Delgrange, who tells us they will open their new location on Worth Avenue: “When they finish the work; I hope before Christmas!”
With the influx of New Yorkers moving to Palm Beach, real estate continues to soar and so does the art market. The Acquavella Galleries opened an exhibition space in Palm Beach on November 1st. Sotheby’s‘ first presentation in Palm Beach will include paintings by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as Rolex timepieces and midcentury furniture. And this week the Pace Gallery opens with an exhibition of James Turrell’s work.
Last weekend, Pamela O’Connor invited us to join her at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens which hosted its 4th Annual Sculpture in Motion — The Art of Pre-and Post-War Automobiles, honoring Palm Beach County Gold Star Families & Veterans. The event was chaired by Robert Bishop, Frances & Jeff Fisher, Audrey & Martin Gruss, Samantha & Brendan Carroll, LinQuig Yang and Cameron Lickle, with Donald Osborne — author, car historian, host, consultant and Accredited Senior Appraiser member of the American Society of Appraisers who served as Grand Marshall — and Cavallion Classic Founder John Barnes who served as Honorary Chairman and Guest Curator.
Anthony Haden Guest will help kick-off the art season at the Paul Fisher Gallery on November 29th with their Sleep of Reason Art Exhibition, featuring the work of Keith Kattner and others, curated by Debbie Dickinson. On view through January 13th, the event will benefit the American Red Cross.
Among the many talented emerging artists featured at the Paul Fisher Gallery this season is Carol Calicchio whose work I had been invited to see earlier in the week while on exhibit at the new Ben Hotel. Carol is the step daughter-in-law of Denise LeFrak Calicchio. Carol’s daughter Amanda Calicchio attended the Parson’s School of Design with my daughter Meredith, so I was excited to see her work and to finally meet her!
Ala von Auersperg celebrated “Holiday Style” with lifestyle expert Danielle Rollins, author of A Home for All Seasons: Gracious Living and Stylish Entertaining published by Rizzoli. It was nice to see the fall color palette of Ala’s casually elegant fashion designs that are perfect for the Palm Beach lifestyle.
Festivities outside Ala’s jewel box of a store at 312 Worth Avenue included a book signing with Danielle Rollins, informal modeling, and a Joy de Fleurs flower station where guests created their own holiday inspired bouquets. Guests included: Beth Rudin DeWoody, Eleanora Kennedy, Katie Carpenter, Kate and Jimmy Gublemann, Grace and Chris Meigher, Aida Flamm, Julie Hayek, Darviny Dar, Farley Rentschler, Scott Moses, Amy Hoadley, Stephanie and Jim Loeffler, Xiomi and Roby Penn, Natasha and Jason Rawding, Billy Ceglia, and Camilla Webster.
Ala told me, “My prints never go out of season. When designing I am very cognizant of the way people are dressing now and want my customers to be able to build upon what is in their closet. I love to see how women mix and match, taking something new and pairing it with something old. We have started to re-issue several heritage prints in best selling styles to keep the AvA collection forever timeless.”
The boutique, recently opened in May, was inspired by Ala’s own childhood breakfast room in Newport, Rhode Island, the walls of which featured a beautiful trellis design with custom “treillage” pattern wallpaper from Meg Braff Designs. Her in-house stylist and brand ambassador, Trish Carroll, is always on hand to assist in finding the perfect look for the occasion. The store is currently open by appointment only and offers private, personalized fittings; online ordering and telephone sales; curbside pick-up, and flexible delivery options.
Born Princess Annie-Laurie von Auersperg, Ala Isham is the daughter of Martha “Sunny” Crawford von Bülow and her first husband, Prince Alfred von Auersperg of Austria. Ala grew up between Kitzbühel, Austria, New York City and Newport, RI. As a child, she visited Parisian couture houses with her mother and grandmother, Annie Laurie Aitken, an experience that trained her eye to appreciate beautiful craftsmanship and the way custom clothes flawlessly fit.
One unfortunately could not avoid the press surrounding the Claus von Bülow trial, but good news soon followed when she married Ralph Isham in 1989.
Ralph’s father, Heyward Isham, was a former Ambassador to Haiti and later an editor at Doubleday who went to Yale with my late father-in-law, John Ledes. The Ledes’ family hosted a party at the prestigious Cercle de l’Union Interalliée in Paris each year that had become legendary in the fragrance industry. Ralph attended numerous times with his previous wife, Catherine Barre, whose family owned Verreries Brosse et Cie., a French crystal-bottle manufacturer.
However, the Ishams also have ties to Palm Beach as Ralph’s “aunts” were Peggy Frazer and his her twin sister Dorothy Price. Dorothy’s daughter, Marjorie Meek, was of course a longtime resident of Palm Beach. It is with Ralph that Ala started visiting Palm Beach. This experience combined with her inherent taste and style is what led to the creation of her collection of elegant, yet effortless pieces that are simply perfect for the Palm Beach lifestyle.
As a mother of four — and grandmother of four — Ala loves spending time with her family and celebrating life’s special moments. Ala’s daughter, Sunny Zweig, works with her as the Head of Private Sales, “to ensure each silhouette complements and enhances a woman’s body and spirit.”
Ala’s passion for creating clothes that enhance a woman’s confidence truly underpins her philanthropic work. In 1985, she co-founded the National Center for Victims of Crime, an organization that provides victims of crime with rights, protection, and services to help them rebuild their lives. In 1986, she founded the Brain Trauma Foundation, which she created in homage to her late mother, supporting ongoing research on traumatic brain injuries. Together with her conservation efforts, Ala is committed to empowering women through beauty, instilling confidence and strength.
Cheers to that and Happy Thanksgiving!