On a pristine Friday night at a resort in the Cayman Islands, guests decked out in their finest were enjoying a pasta dish served inside the shell of a Caribbean lobster, drinking Champagne, taking in the stunning scenery poolside. Suddenly, the Brooklyn-based avant-garde musician Eartheater popped out above their heads. Perched in a palm tree, she wore a Puppets & Puppets dress that featured strategically placed butterflies in lieu of a bra or bodice.
At this point, it became clear this wasn’t your typical Caribbean resort—nor was it a typical night. It was Palm Heights—the Islands’ first all-suites resort—4th annual Iconic Ball, an exclusive seaside Halloween weekend retreat for luminaries of New York’s fashion, arts and culture scene.
Moments before Eartheater appeared in a treetop, she performed her song “Clavicle” in a poolside conversation pit with members of the Grand Cayman National Orchestra (the pool itself had been covered with plexiglass to make room for tables). A spotlight shone onto of the resort’s suite balconies, where Eartheater’s friend and frequent collaborator Lourdes Leon stood motionless in an ocean-blue Versace metal mesh dress with a high slit, watching the crowd below.
Later in the night, it would be Leon’s time to perform. She had come down from the balcony to walk through the crowd before taking a seat directly atop the center table. Legs splayed akimbo, a dancer sat in a chair directly in front of her before tipping over backwards. (That’s one way to guarantee a drop dead performance.) Bringing out new material, Leon displayed a voice far more robust and husky than one might have assumed, given the breathy vocals she provided for “Lock&Key,” the debut single she released under the name Lolahol this summer (and, yes, that voice does bear a resemblance to that of her mother’s, Madonna).
Finally, the British club chanteuse Shygirl capped off the night with a balled, which she sung as she walked directly from the beach to sit down on the stage. There, she had her feet washed, mixing a bit of the Birth of Aphrodite with the lore of Christian saints. Fireworks shot off from the beach behind her.
Many of the guests assembled had probably seen their fair share of hotel poolside performances during Art Basel Miami Beach week, but the three artists who performed aimed to create something a bit more memorable. If Picasso can deconstruct portraiture, why shouldn’t someone try to deconstruct the poolside party performance?
It all played out before a chic crowd dressed up in their version of ’70s and ’80s “Bombastic Chic.” The actress Rowan Blanchard was in a white dress with a plunging neckline appropriate for the disco. Model Selita Ebanks did her take on Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson. Designer Zoe Latta of Eckhaus Latta, Dion Lee, and Luar’s Raul Lopez all held court with their respective crews (Luar’s ‘Ana’ bag being, perhaps, the most frequently seen accessory of the weekend).
It seemed just about everyone at the resort was there for the party. The brainchild of its founder and creative director, Gabriella Khalil—a multifaceted mogul with a background in contemporary art and interior design—Palm Heights has become a Caribbean haven for the artier set. While the rest of the Grand Caymans’s famed Seven Mile Beach may be dominated by guests in board shorts and Vera Bradley, under Palm Heights’s yellow striped umbrellas, you were more likely to find Telfar totes and an occasional Barragán speedo. (We also spotted at least one pair of Balenciaga’s chunky Defender sneakers kicking up sand.) Palm Heights hosts a residency program for creatives and artists, along with a library filled with rare art books and vintage copies of Andy Warhol-era Interview. It’s the kind of place you could easily imagine Sean Connery’s Bond stopping by for a martini. Come to think of it, there was at least one person at the Iconic Ball painted in head-to-toe gold body paint—but they wore a thong while performing interpretive dance moves.