Special Events

FASHION PASSION

IT'S NO SURPRISE that fashion and fund-raisers are a perfect match, according to event planner Catherine Saxton, head of the New York-based Saxton Group, which counts celebrated royals and celebrity royalty among its clients.

Fashion sponsors love such galas because “you need people to see your product on wealthy, chic people,” she says. “When a Coach handbag is on the arm of Nicky Hilton or Heidi Klum, the young woman in Podunk, Iowa, says, ‘I want that bag.’” By the same token, generous guests will continue to show up because “they need the contacts that very high level fund-raisers can give them,” she notes. “Anyone at the top of their industry maintains a very high social profile and standing.”

ART FOR ART'S SAKE

Luxury goods manufacturer Hermès of Paris supports the annual black-tie Tribeca Ball in New York, which benefits the New York Academy of Art, because Hermès reveres creativity, the company says. “Hermès supports the arts in many different ways,” notes Robert Chavez, Hermès president and CEO. “The New York Academy of Art is a terrific institution that ensures the continuity of talent and great artists in our future.”

This year's ball, held in April at Gotham Hall, drew 300 guests including such high-profile celebrities as Nicole Kidman for cocktails, dinner and performances from director Baz Luhrmann's Broadway production of “La Boheme.” Art director Simon Costin worked with Hermès to honor event host Luhrmann with a fin de siècle artist's workshop, including such elements as white chair cover “canvases” decorated with drawings of ornate chairs. The color red dominated the event, including a suspended sign made of red lights spelling out the word “L'amour.”

New York caterer Olivier Cheng Catering & Events keyed on the artist theme, suggesting an artist's paper sketchbook with a main course of truffled halibut en papillote with a confit of leeks, baby carrots and fingerlings. As each plate was presented to guests, “the waiters cut the paper with beautiful artist's scissors,” notes Franck Cursat, managing director of Olivier Cheng. Although the papillote technique isn't used often in catering today, “it keeps food hot and perfect; catered food tends to be at room temperature,” he says.

The Hermès brand was itself a decor element. Stacks of the company's signature orange boxes created a cocktail bar, and sharp-eyed guests noticed that the bustle on a singer's costume was created from 39 Hermès silk carré scarves.

MODEL BEHAVIOR

The environment was as chic as the clothes at a celebrity-studded fund-raiser for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rape Treatment Center, staged in April by fashion house Emanuel Ungaro and upscale retailer Barneys.

Los Angeles-based designer/producer Event Eleven created a sleek, “fashionably clean” lounge inside a tent at a private Los Angeles home for the dinner and fashion show, according to Event Eleven principal Tony Schubert. White sofas and ottomans lined the runway, which was covered in white carpet sprinkled with Swarovski crystals. The interior of the clear-top tent was lined with white drapery backlit in fuchsia with breakup patterns of trees, a subtle reference to Ungaro's Fuchsia spring line, which also echoed in fuchsia-tone floral from area florist Velvet Garden. The 400 guests dined on beef tenderloin and grilled chicken from local caterer GoodFood.

Although the event garnered plenty of press on its own, it was only part of a gracefully orchestrated campaign to publicize Ungaro's ready-to-wear line. Several weeks before the fashion show, Barneys hosted a breakfast to present its newest ready-to-wear collection to RTC's support council, which includes many influential L.A. area women. “A percentage of [clothing] sales went to RTC, and it gave the ladies a chance to get something from the designer to wear to the event,” says event publicist Jill Eisenstadt, with PR firm Full Picture of West Hollywood, Calif.

BEST FOOT FORWARD

The guests brought the brand to a fund-raiser staged by athletic shoe retailer Foot Locker, wearing black-tie garb with their favorite athletic shoes. Star athletes including former Mets baseball players Mookie Wilson and Bobby Bonilla mingled with 1,200 guests at the December “On Our Feet” event to benefit the United Way of New York.

New York-based event planner Paint The Town Red took full advantage of venue Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, offering guests the chance to make wax molds of their hands and positioning the Foot Locker CEO next to other leaders — albeit wax ones — such as Presidents George Washington and Ronald Reagan to deliver a speech to the group. Scattered among the silent wax figures were lively look-alikes of Bette Midler and Cher, tarot-card and palm readers, and a strolling magician. Local caterer The Catering Co. kept guests moving among the museum's galleries with buffets for sushi, mini club sandwiches, bite-size hamburgers and a selection of tapas.

“It wasn't a traditional, sit-down affair,” notes Lori Anne Kober, vice president of public relations for Foot Locker. “It was a fun environment for everyone to intermingle.”




RESOURCES

Event Eleven, 323/549-9980; Macy's West, 415/393-3455; Olivier Cheng Catering & Events, 212/625-3151; Paint The Town Red, 212/677-3173; The Saxton Group, 212/672-0509

A GALA FOR GIVING

From a men's fashion show staged in a department store cafeteria 21 years ago, the “Passport” event from retailer Macy's has evolved into a multi-day fashion extravaganza held in San Francisco and in Los Angeles that has raised nearly $17 million for AIDS prevention and care. “San Francisco was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in America, and many Macy's employees and others in the fashion industry felt that turning Passport into an HIV/AIDS fund-raiser was an opportunity to make a difference in its community by raising awareness and funds for the battle,” says a Macy's spokeswoman.

This year's show, which takes place Sept. 23-27 in San Francisco, will include a teen night — combining fun with HIV/AIDS awareness activities presented by youth health educators — a fashion show, a card-member night from longtime sponsor American Express (which includes a fashion show and celebrity-hosted auction), and an in-store event — a one-day shopping extravaganza featuring fashion events, special discounts, cosmetics seminars and cooking demonstrations — all to benefit local HIV/AIDS community organizations.

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