For anyone who doubts the connection of the French Heritage Society (FHS) to the heart and soul of France, consider this. As the images of Notre Dame in flames seared across their screens, the first impulse of more than 4,000 Americans was to call the Society. “Our phone was ringing nonstop,” Jennifer Herlein, the FHS Executive Director, told Hamptons.com. “Journalists were calling for information. People were calling to help.” Many needed to talk. Many cried. “They shared beautiful, personal stories of why Notre Dame held special significance to them,” Herlein continued. “One person gave because his grandfather had fought in the war, and had been there when Paris was liberated. There were people who gave $10. There were people who gave $10,000.” And one person gave $2,000,000.
Of course Americans called the French Heritage Society: Preserving French architecture, and the Franco/American bond, is its mission. And so, they were the first American organization to start a Notre Dame emergency fund, raising 2.5 million for the cathedral.
Their galas pay tribute to style and glamour. This year’s Black & White Ball filled an Old World room in a private club with a sea of monochromatic elegance. Even the floral arrangements by New York Chapter Co-Chair and the evening’s Design Consultant, Odile de Schiétère-Longchampt, were black and white.
“We’re in French Heaven,” Gregory Hedberg proclaimed. He was honored with wife Margaret, and interior designer Geoffrey Bradfield. “I think it’s the chicest crowd in New York,” added Margaret Hedberg, who helms the International Debutante Ball her grandmother founded. The Francophiles in the room, including Elizabeth Stribling, keep apartments in Paris, own Chateaus or simply appreciate the unique French approach to life, love and all things a la mode.
New York Chapter Co-Chair, Guy Robinson, donned decorated white tie. Board Member Jean Shafiroff wore a striped gown with a train and a matching masque by designer Victor de Sousa, who accompanied her.
FHS President Denise de Kergorlay traveled from Paris for the evening. He lauded Board Chairman Elizabeth Stribling for building the Society into such a significant force. He said she will receive the Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur from the French Minister of Forgein Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Quai d’Orsay (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in Paris. Already a member of the Légion d’Honneur, this “upgrade” is a rare honor for an American.
The Gala Chairmen were CeCe Black, Jean Doyen de Montaillou and Michael A. Kovner, Jay R. Paul, Jean Shafiroff, and Ann Van Ness. The Co-Chairmen Barbara and Donald Tober. Dinner Chairmen were Stark D. Kirby, Jr., Helena Lehane, Martin Shafiroff, and Bill Van Ness. George P. Sape served as the Wine Consultant. Guests included Board Members Yann Coatanlem, Christian Draz, Ronald Lee Fleming, Comte Denis de Kergorlay, Judy McLaren, Ann and Bill Van Ness, as well as Debbie Bancroft, Véronique Bich, Lady Liliana Cavendish, Victor de Souza, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Diamond, Mr. and Mrs. John French III, Mark Gilbertson, Sharon Handler, Eric Javits, Jr., Yue-Sai Kan, Margo Langenberg, George Ledes, Sharon Handler Loeb and John Loeb, William Ivey Long, Patricia and Harry Macklowe, Aimée and William Maroney, Mary McFadden, Lucretia Obolensky, Diana and Charles Revson, Tara Rockefeller, Barbara and John Schumacher, Charlie Scheips, Dame Donna and Richard Soloway, and Victoria Wyman.
Upcoming FHS events include the annual Thanksgiving Day celebration in Paris, aa well as the annual Palm Beach Gala Dinner, February 2020.
For more information, visit frenchheritagesociety.org.