The stunning contemporary Bottega Veneta boutique at South Coast Plaza closed to the public last Thursday evening for a cocktail reception to introduce its spring 2014 line. In-store events in recent years have become serious social, business and charitable gatherings.
In one sense, such parties are something of a cultural phenomenon. Who turns out, what charitable causes benefit, how the retail and business communities react to the product on display all add up. Success is often measured by the number of guests taking out the American Express Platinum Card to validate the experience.
Yet there is more at hand than just the bottom line. There is the feeling of being a part of the moment. It is like being the first to preview an undiscovered artist at a gallery opening or the first to learn of a ground-breaking technological discovery. In the world of fashion retail, it is crucial to be first, be best and be visible.
The Bottega Veneta event fit all categories. Three of Orange County's most fashionable, visible and powerful women fronted the launch event, each representing a charity of choice. A portion of proceeds from the evening's sales will be divided and donated.
The triad of influence included Elizabeth Segerstrom representing the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Elizabeth An turning out in support of Serving People In Need (SPIN) and Keiko Sakamoto Witte on hand to assist the Friendship Shelter.
Each of the hostesses invited an entourage of supporters to arrive at 6 p.m. for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres catered by the House of An's AnQi. As champagne and ahi sushi were served, president and CEO of Bottega, Marco Bizzarri, welcomed guests joining the VIP assemblage from The Plaza including Anton Segerstrom, Barney Page, David Grant and Debra Gunn Downing.
Clearly, there is an important business element at play in supporting the client, as well as a long-standing corporate philosophy that community involvement and in particular philanthropic outreach is intrinsic to the overall partnership with community. It is a philosophy that has made South Coast Plaza the envy of retail giants nationwide and Orange County the envy of American neighborhoods.
The crowd continued to flow in to Bottega Veneta until well past 8. Social standouts Eve Kornyei Ruffatto and Valarie Van Cleave Whiting admired the shimmering pastel-colored leather evening clutches for spring, constructed in the signature woven leather that has made Bottega Veneta famous worldwide.
The remodeled store, expanded and redesigned by Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier, includes the retailer's high fashion leather goods as well as women's and men's ready-to-wear (and the men's clothing is highly stylized on the cutting edge of Italian design), shoes, eyewear, jewelry and fragrances. It is de rigueur for today's designers to cover all bases.
The dynamic Jean Wegener, executive director of SPIN, was in the crowd. An and best pal Soogie Kang have become ardent supporters of Wegener's work assisting families in crisis in the O.C., and SPIN has been named one of the top agencies in the region by the OC Partnership for its work placing citizens in transitional housing and providing counseling to turn lives around. Wegener was joined by her development director Kim Frazier and SPIN board member Danni Remington.
Also spotted in the crowd were Ishani Dhillon, Daryl Nelson, Judy Chang, Michelle Horowitz and Min Ji Clark.
THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.