At the black tie, invitation-only opening of the first Oscar de la Renta retrospective, held at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, friends and fans turned out in their best Oscars to honor the designer, who passed away in 2014.
DE LA RENTA IN SPAIN, PARIS, AND NEW YORK
Known for his show-stopping and glamorous evening gowns, Oscar de la Renta was 18 when he left his native Dominican Republic to study painting in Madrid. Turning to design, he served an apprenticeship with couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, became a couture assistant at the Parisian house of Lanvin-Castillo, and in 1963 arrived in New York to design for Elizabeth Arden couture. Founding his own ready-to-wear label just two years later, he became one of the most influential designers of our time.
His many accolades include winning the Coty Award in 1967 and 1968, at the time the most prestigious honor for an American designer; being named Commander by the French Légion d’Honneur in 1999; and receiving the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts from the King of Spain.
120-PIECE EXHIBIT SPANS 50 YEARS
The first-ever survey of de la Renta’s life work, the exhibition on display at the de Young Museum through May 30 features more than 120 pieces produced over five decades. It was curated by Andre Leon Talley, former editor-at-large for Vogue magazine, who spent a year culling pieces from the de la Renta company archives, the designer’s personal collection, private lenders worldwide, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) costume collection.
The exhibit traces de la Renta’s early career in Spain through the 2000s, when he dressed some of the most influential politicians and celebrities in the world. It’s organized by sections: early work; Spanish, Eastern, Russian, and garden influences; daywear and eveningwear; and ball gowns and red carpet ensembles.
BALL GOWNS AND RED CARPET
De la Renta designed dresses for the second inaugural balls of first ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. Among his celebrity clients were Taylor Swift, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Penélope Cruz.
AN EVENING OF GLAMOR AND REMEMBRANCE
The opening gala was co-chaired by the designer’s widow, Annette de la Renta, and Diane “Dede” Wilsey, President of the FAMSF Board of Trustees. An Oscar devotee, Wilsey frequently wears luxurious Oscar gowns to glamorous social events such as the opening night of the opera. Also making an appearance was special guest Peter Copping, de la Renta’s successor as creative director.
Some of the 350 guests at the sold-out evening flew in from Texas, Kentucky, New York, and even further afield. An exhibition preview and reception preceded a sit-down dinner catered by McCalls, during which Wilsey and Oscar de la Renta CEO Alex Bolen gave stirring speeches about their late friend.
It was a night of fond remembrance. Alex Bolen, his wife Eliza Bolen (de la Renta EVP and daughter of Annette de la Renta), and Talley were tearful during their walkthrough of the exhibition.
Longtime de la Renta Sales Director Boaz Mazor called himself the “luckiest man in the world” for having been associated with the fashion icon for 45 years. “The difference between Oscar and the younger designers I see today,” he said, “is that Oscar lived the same glamorous life as his clients.”
After the show, Boaz was off to Athens, where there’s a de la Renta store that has a large following by a new generation of clients, and then he’s on to Paris for few days. He’s living the glamorous life, too!
DINNER IN A MAGICAL SETTING
For dinner in the de Young Museum’s tented courtyard, designer J. Riccardo Benavides, creative director of Ideas Events, created a magical “garden” inspired by de la Renta’s Connecticut home.
Benavides used whimsically groomed shrubbery, pink blooms, and pedestals topped with lush, oversized floral arrangements in combination with pink and green banquettes. The highlight of the evening, he said, was escorting Annette de la Renta into the room and hearing her say, “Very well done.”
A NEW DIRECTOR FOR FAMSF
FAMSF announced its new director, Max Hollein, in March. Hollein has led three of the most important art institutions in Germany: the Städel Museum, the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection, and the Schirn Kunsthalle. We wish him much success in his new position.
Hollein succeeds Colin Bailey, formerly of the Frick, who returned to his longtime home of New York to become director of the Morgan Library and Museum. Bailey followed the much-loved director John Buchanan, who passed away in 2011 after organizing many blockbuster fashion shows highlighting the creations of Cristóbal Balenciaga, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Yves Saint Laurent.
CPMC 2020 GALA SPONSORED BY CHANEL
There had been a lot of buzz about the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) 2020 Gala sponsored by luxury fashion house Chanel, so I was eager to go. It lived up to expectations and raised more than $2.5 million dollars for CPMC medical programs, which notably include clinical trials for food allergies.
HONOREES SEAN PARKER AND DR. KARI NADEAU
Honorees were allergy expert Dr. Kari Nadeau and tech titan, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Sean Parker. Parker co-founded the online file-sharing service Napster and briefly served as president of Facebook. Forbes.com reports he’s worth $2.4 billion, and he’s just 37 years old!
Last year, Sean Parker donated $600 million to establish The Parker Foundation, which focuses on life sciences, global public health, and civic engagement. With a personal history of allergies, he’s pledged $24 million to the Stanford Allergy Research Center, a CPMC partner.
Dr. Kari Nadeau is a foremost expert in adult and pediatric allergies and asthma. An MD and PhD graduate of Harvard Medical School, she is Director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University and an endowed professor under the Naddisy Family Foundation.
NEXT GENERATION HEALTH CARE FOR SAN FRANCISCO
I was awed in hearing what CPMC is doing for San Francisco. Established in 1852, during the Gold Rush, it provides advanced precision medicine and health care for nearly 30 percent of the city’s patients.
CPMC’s new hospital, ten years in the planning, is finally under construction. The main facility, the Van Ness and Geary Campus, will be located in the center of the city on the recently demolished eyesore, Cathedral Hill Hotel, built in 1960 as the Jack Tar Hotel.
It is one of two new smart hospitals that together will cost almost $3 billion (and though that may sound astronomical, the buildings are already fully funded). With an aging population and the effects of the Affordable Care Act, these facilities will be most welcome.
The Gala Chairs included CPMC Foundation Board trustees Sloan Barnett, Carol Bonnie, Dr. Carolyn Chang, Jacqueline Sacks, and Allison Speer.
Trustee Sloan Barnett, daughter of New York philanthropists Frayda and George Lindemann, is the wife of Roger Barnett, Chairman and CEO of Shaklee Corporation, the top natural nutrition and green cleaning products company in the U.S.
This attractive, glamorous, and involved couple sold their NY townhouse and bought a home in San Francisco a few years ago. They collaborated on its design with New York-based architect Peter Marino, who has overall design responsibility for Chanel stores worldwide. So the newly furnished home was a most appropriate spot for an intimate dinner to thank Chanel President of Fashion for the U.S. Barbara Cirkva and husband John Schumacher for the Gala evening.
THE CHANEL CHANGEOVER
Chanel’s President of Fashion for the U.S., Barbara Cirkva, passed the torch at the end of March to Joyce Green, formerly senior vice president of multibrand retail in the fashion division. Cirkva spent 28 years with the iconic fashion house and is considered one of the most respected fashion executives in the world.
Now she will have more time to spend in the happening city of Miami, her winter home. Barbara joked that her Palm Beach friends drive down to Miami when they want to have some fun, and I’m sure she will show them a good time.
IN THE CROWD
CMPC’s gala succeeded in doing what every charitable event aspires to—attracting the affluent young techie crowd.
The heavy hitters included Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne, who are setting an example for their peers in fulfilling civic responsibilities and promoting gender equality through Salesforce pay and promotion policies. The firm will soon relocate to a new Pelli Clark Pelli-designed skyscraper within San Francisco’s under-construction Transbay Transit Center.
Other attendees included Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer; Alison Pincus, founder of online upscale home décor retailer One King’s Lane; Randi and Bob Fisher with sister-in-law and SF Symphony President Sako Fisher, of the Gap-founding Fisher Family; Lisa Goldman, an active member of the philanthropic Goldman family, who are descended from denim pioneer Levi Strauss; David Sacks, CEO of Zenefits online HR software; and Carol and Shelby Bonnie, co-founder of CNET, leading tech reviews website.
I enjoyed meeting Omid and Gisel Kordestani, a delightful couple. Omid, an engineer, has enjoyed stints at Netscape and Google, and is currently executive chairman at Twitter. Gisel was in full Chanel: a lovely blue dress topped by the most stunning coat, with baubles on its sleeves. (If it were mine, I’d never take it off!)
I love sitting at dinner with people like these, who keep me abreast of what’s happening in the tech world.
The Chanel-sponsored event brought out dozens of San Francisco supporters, many wearing their best pieces from the iconic brand.
Photographs by Drew Altizer, Irja Elisa Tannlund, Fine Arts Museums San Francisco, California Pacific Medical Center.
*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.