Chairs and chairs

By Erin Carlson

The end of summer means the start of hot-ticket galas from the Opera Ball to the Symphony’s Opening Night, where all of  San Francisco society steps out in their finest attire to celebrate the city’s arts and culture and raise money for its charitable causes. If you’re a guest, there’s nothing more fun; if you’re a chair, organizing the most glamorous parties of the year is much more difficult than it looks. So, here’s our toast to the women who make things happen: Sharon Seto, Courtney Labe, Maryam Muduroglu, Deepa Pakianathan and Prisca Geeslin. We asked designer extraordinaire (and Honorary Chair Man) Jonathan Rachman to pair each queen with a fabulous throne of his choosing. Seto, multitasking and resplendent in Oscar de la Renta, brought dim sum for the shoot; each sang SF’s praises. Of the Opera spectacle, Pakianathan says: “I ’ve been to a lot of black-tie events in New York, and and New York has nothing on this.”

Sharon Seto

On September 9, the effervescent philanthropist will chair “Pour for a Cure,” a fundraiser in Santa Rosa benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Northern California, an organization near and dear to Seto’s heart. “After learning about Lupus disease and how devastating it is, my entire family, including my husband, David, and children (Stephen, Melanie, Samantha and Marissa) wanted to get involved and help. … There is no cure. Isn’t that crazy? That has got to change.” Along with David, she’s also chairing another big to-do this season: The 15th Annual Fashion Fights Arthritis event, featuring the one-of-a-kind designs of couturier Yuka Uehara, on October 20. Meanwhile, says Seto: “15 vineyards are uncorking for Pour for a Cure! It’s going to be a FUN afternoon for a great cause!”

Courtney Labe and Maryam Muduroglu

Social season is not social season without the Opera Ball, where the gowns are as glamorous and attention-getting as any on the red carpet at the Met Gala in New York. Frankly, we cannot wait to see what everyone wears. Co-chairs Labe and Muduroglu, serving Kate Middleton in Zuhair Murad and Oscar de la Renta for our photoshoot, have already coordinated their Lily Samii ensembles for the September 8 soiree, which formally kicks off a new year at the Opera with a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. “I love music and I just love the way that the opera transforms you to another era,” says Muduroglu. “I just feel that the younger generation is moving away from some of the cultural elements of our city, so it’s important to keep it alive and going and introduce it to the younger generation.”

Deepa Pakianathan

No, this elegant woman is not the warrior queen from your favorite TV show—she’s managing partner at Delphi Ventures and executive vice-chair of the Board of Trustees at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, which honored former SF Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink at its splashy gala in April. Pakianathan, known for her head-turning style (remember the headpiece she wore to the Opera Ball in 2013?), chose a striking gown by the chic London label Teatum Jones for her debut appearance in the Gazette studio. The high-drama dress perfectly complemented the avante-garde seat by Spanish furniture-maker Camus. “I absolutely loved the chair,” she says. “It’s whimsical and modern and I might just have to buy it.”

Prisca Geeslin

“It’s going to be a wonderful party,” says the co-chair of the San Francisco Symphony’s lavish Opening Night Gala on September 14. “It’s exciting because Yo-Yo Ma is our soloist and people are so excited about hearing him, seeing him, and they love him. He is truly one of these amazing soloists when he comes and plays with the Symphony.” Geeslin, among the Board of Governors at the SF institution, expects some 2,500 guests who will take in a concert that begins with the overture to Candide—one of her favorites—and later attend a glittering afterparty with more great music. For the Gazette, Geeslin wore a favored gala-ready gown by New York designer Joanna Mastroianni. “I love the fabric,” she muses. “I love everything about it. I like very tailored, simple, clean lines.”

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