One of my favourite designers – a wonderful interview and a charming man – is Oscar de la Renta. He was one of the first big name designers I ever met. I first interviewed him when I was a fashion reporter for The Vancouver Sun. He was in Vancouver for a fragrance launch. He was generous with his time and gave me (a very nervous junior reporter) a wonderful story packed with great anecdotes and snappy quotes. Over the years, I’ve seen many of his runway shows in New York and visited his home in Connecticut so it was a real thrill to be the co-chair of his gala fashion show and dinner on April 13 here in Toronto.
My friend Suzanne Rogers [FLARE is owned by Rogers Publishing] asked me to help her organize the fundraiser more than a year ago. In September, we met Oscar after his runway show to announce the gala to the New York press. It’s been a whirlwind of activity since!
Organizing an event of this stature is, frankly, massive. The committee tackled everything from the guest list to the dinner menu to where Oscar’s car would wait for him after the VIP reception. One of the highlights for me was talking to Oscar. He’s warm and friendly and quick to laugh and offer a genuine compliment. I remember him once telling another reporter that he often avoided wearing a white shirt with a dark suit because he didn’t want to be mistaken for a musician in the salsa band.
What also impressed me was how the 300+ guests dressed for the occasion. Suzanne’s custom-made dress was adapted from a piece from the fall 2010 runway collection. I could spot Oscar’s other confections in an instant: a burgundy pleated and tiered strapless gown on Sylvia Mantella; a rich vine print on committee member, Vanessa Miedler; and a stunning coral frilled floor-sweeper on my co-chair Courtenay Wolfe and Heather Gotlieb. The FLARE team – me, Tanya and Liz – all wore Greta Constantine.
The evening raised more than $750,000 for three children’s charities – Healthy Kids International at Sick Kids Hospital, Children’s Aid Foundation, and Oscar’s school in the Dominican Republic. Oscar got into the action at the live auction, offering the winning bidder of a trip to Tortuga Bay Resort dinner at his home and entertainment from his neighbour Julio Iglesias. That package sold for $62,000.
You will see all of the photos from the event in a special magazine that FLARE will be publishing with our July issue. It was a great night for fashion in Toronto and a fitting celebration of a legendary fashion designer.
I’ll be back again next week. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lisatant