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After spending the past 53 weeks living out of a suitcase while wandering across five continents, former society editor Ida Becker was happy to stand in for Charleston society editor Bryan Hunter at this oh-so-fashionable event during Charleston Fashion Week.
It’s an admittedly gloomy world at the moment, but the color and creativity coursing through Marion Square is a distraction worth its weight in this season’s trendy, oversized baubles. In its third incarnation, Charleston Fashion Week has landed squarely on the bon ton map, and, like moths to a flame, a coterie of beautiful, enterprising people have made the tents the place to be this week.
Lest you think it’s utterly irrelevant to exalt apparel, let me assure you that it’s not all paparazzi flashes and “who’s in the first row?” On Friday, local handbag luminary Mary Norton spearheaded Catwalk for Kids, a luncheon that benefitted MUSC Children’s Hospital. For many years, Mary has shared her design talent with young patients, bringing purse forms and embellishments to the hospital’s atrium, where she hosts her own form of art therapy.
In her tear-stained opening remarks, Mary (who has an autoimmune disorder known as Lupus) credited the courageous spirit of those ailing children as a source of personal inspiration and renewal, especially in the early days of her fledgling business. Her comments struck a resonate chord: When you stop to consider what a child with stage four cancer faces on a daily basis, our passing distractions seem incredibly insignificant.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Under the direction of Heather Barrie Ahern, a team of magic elves had worked long past the witching hour on Thursday night in order to transform the Charleston magazine CFW runway tent into a more intimate venue, while everyone's favorite tattooed maverick with a heart of gold, Chef Brett McKee of Oak Steakhouse, supplied the luncheon fare.
A galaxy of Lowcountry headliners paraded into the tent for the inaugural event: everyone from my fun-loving, traveling buddy and official luncheon hostess, Terri Henning, to Joe Norton, Mary’s suave husband. Helen Hill, fresh as spring in a stunning green suit; Jan Lipov, who always has a warm embrace and heartfelt sentiment to share; Kimberly McKee, dressed in a bright yellow blouse that matched her wonderfully sunny personality; Cassie Baker Dulaney, eight months with child and aglow; and the fabulously irreverent Truman Smith were among the familiar Fete Set faces that populated the well-heeled crowd.
A brief runway show by Saks Fifth Avenue previewed trends forecasted for the season ahead, and then complete mayhem broke out. No, Holly Golightly did not mine her next husband-to-be prospect from Vince Marino’s table. Truman Capote did not make off with Meredith Dunnan's scarf. Bianca Jagger did not ride through the tent on a white horse. It was better—way better.
Doug Warner, beefcake that he is, came strutting down the runway in a pair of pink and black pumps that rendered the crowd momentarily speechless. The voice of the charity circuit, Mr. Warner lends his auctioneering talents to many local nonprofits. There is no better, more entertaining, or more charming boulevardier than Mr. Warner.
The gusto that followed the split second hush, that followed sight of him wearing heels, was deafening. After auctioning handbags created by Children’s Hospital patients, Warner took off his garish heels and, well, he attempted to sell those, too. Despite the $9.99 price tag still affixed to the left sole, they fetched a whopping $1,500 thanks to the pair of Mary Norton heels that were added to the impromptu lot. Have you see her new line of shoes? Move over, Choo; Mary's kicks are bellissimo! Thanks, Mary, for the $100 gift certificates you shared with attendees!
It takes a lot to upstage Doug Warner, but the undertow of excited chatter escalated to a frenzied pitch as time drew near for the event's main attraction, a performance by a legend who needed no further introduction after Mary said these three words: Mr. Las Vegas.
With a gold microphone in his hand and a twinkle in his eye, Wayne Newton delighted the crowd with a medley of his favorite songs. Charming quips punctuated his act, and a poignant moment occurred when he serenaded Gary Edwards’ spunky, young daughter. A triumphant survivor in the truest sense of the word, she is gearing up for another battle after doctors recently discovered a cancerous nodule on her lung during a post treatment scan. Yet, the smile never left her face on Friday. Keep the faith, Gary: You have an entire community that supports you and your family.
Wayne rounded out his performance with his hit, “Danke Schoen”, and he expressed his desire to donate his time and talent again next year to the second Catwalk for Kids. After this year’s rousing success, next year’s affair is sure be one hot ticket. (The Newton family appeared to be enjoying their time in our fair city. On Saturday, Matthew Renken and I found Joe (Norton) at the Market Street TBonz, where he was waiting for Mary and the Newtons to wrap up a carriage tour. Wayne ebulliently thanked the tour guide as he climbed off the buggy, so thumbs up on local hospitality.)
As Catwalk for Kids concluded, I waved farewell to Sally Weil, Catherine Dority, Martha Bratton, Andy Rankin, and a whole host of friends whom I’ve missed during my year away, and I flitted toward the exit before Mr. Warner could commandeer my camera and delete the evidence of his walk on the wild side.
Gift bags laden with cosmetic treats and a trinket-sized box containing adorable miniature red velvet cupcakes awaited departing guests, many of whom returned several hours later for the third night of megawatt runway shows.
The photos posted are courtesy of Paul Cheney, CharlestonPictureCompany.com.