New Yorkers seeking the thrills and frills of the Hamptons -- sans the exorbitant costs of a summer share and an afternoon spent in traffic -- got their wish Sunday as they descended upon Governors Island for the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic.
Clad in Nantucket reds, seersucker prints and polka dots, the thousands who made the cross-harbor trip looked the part of Sag Harbor socialites as they spread out gourmet picnic lunches of strawberries, foie gras and ample champagne in time for the exhibition polo match.
"I think there's a unique character to polo," said co-host Donna Karan. "It brings out both an elegance and a kookiness in people." Though the event drew a smattering of celebrities in addition to fellow designer Marc Jacobs, Karan was quick to note that the event didn't just offer the public a peek into a rare, if elitist, fusion of competitive sport and high-end fashion; with proceeds benefiting Karan's Hope Help & Rebuild Haiti organization, there was also a philanthropic aim.
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Still, many of the stars in attendance, which included Isla Fisher, Naomi Watts, Nicky Hilton and former Fugee Wyclef Jean, spoke as if attending an event of royal wedding proportions -- which, judging from the spectacularly outré headgear of some A-listers, wasn't too far from everybody's mind. "It shouldn't be ordinary…it should push the boat out a little bit," master of ceremonies Hugh Jackman said of polo fashion. "There's no real rules here. It should have a sense of humor." Of his own khaki suit, which was actually one of the event's more subdued ensembles, Jackman noted, "It's clean, it fits and I like the look of it. But this is not my normal Sunday wear."
Even attention to footwear was exceptional. In anticipation of the "stomping of the divots" custom, most of the women opted for stylish wedges, though comedian Kathy Griffin -- who admitted to making the trek mainly "for the hot guys on horses" -- paired black Crocs with a linen gown. "I'm doing everything wrong…I don't have a hat, I don't have heels," she said almost matter-of-factly.
Based on the conversations of those who queued for $17 flutes of Veuve Clicquot, many continue to associate polo with memorable scenes in "My Fair Lady" and "Pretty Woman." Hence, the match itself seemed almost beside the point at times -- but that was no fault of the players, which included Argentine star Nacho Figueras.
"We created this event four years ago hoping that thousands of New Yorkers would enjoy polo and love it as much as I do," said Figueras, who strolled the red carpet in a bespoke Ralph Lauren suit. Though his own U.S. fame ironically highlights the event's unspoken emphasis on style over sportsmanship -- he's better known locally as the face of Ralph Lauren Polo fragrances than for any of his achievements on the field -- the dashing Figueras' mind was heavily focused on the match itself. "I'm worried about about my horses and my teammates, so those are the most important things." (Turns out Figueras needn't have fretted: his team, Black Watch, beat Rico Mansur's team 6 to 5).