- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

The first day of summer and all hope springs forth. Hope of fitting into those lightweight warm weather frocks, or at least checking out the fall fashions soon to arrive in the stores.

So, it was on the solstice last Tuesday when Nordstrom sponsored its annual benefit preview of fall designer collections at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium. At $125 a pop, the handsomely staged and catered affair always is an elaborate event that attracts clotheshorses of all ages.

It’s literally a feel-good affair since patrons, usually about 300 strong, get to touch, try on and eventually buy early the fabulously fabricated fashions created by European and American designers of note. Those who don’t buy are at least comforted by knowing they are helping two local charities — CharityWorks and Heads Up, both directed at improving lives of families and children — to the tune this year of $44,000.

Some two dozen models, including two from a local agency, paraded on a large square runway against a colorful backdrop that is the retail store’s logo of the year. The huge “wheel of fashion fortune” travels with the show that goes on the road to a dozen American cities aiding a different nonprofit group in each. Such name brand designers as Donna Karan, Missoni, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Moschino and Valentino are responsible for merchandise that begins at $750 and goes skyward to six and seven figures.

“Color is supposed to be in. I can’t stand to look at any more black,” said Marcia Carlucci as she inspected the lush goods with Diane Kay during the pre-show buffet. Both laughed about the fact that summer weather barely has arrived and already stores are bringing in fall lines.

The models swept out in formidably close-fitting and feminine designs that had a preponderance of ruffles, bows, fur collars and cuffs. (A striking rabbit and Mongolian lamb fur coat from Dolce & Gabbana bore a price tag of $9,430.)

“The big thing about D.C. is that people like quality,” said Suzanne Patneaude, Nordstrom vice president for women’s designer apparel. “It’s not a correct reflection that they only want suits. Washington customers are the same as everywhere: they want to feel pretty. We all have special things in our lives. We all want something nobody else has. You can’t put a label on a city. I don’t want a label on me.”

Ms. Patneaude didn’t need one. She stood out in a matching red and white silk print coat and skirt from “upcoming New York designer” Derek Lam — a line available at Nordstrom, of course.

— Ann Geracimos

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