Fashion En Pointe

By Anh-Minh Le

Photo by Alessandro Garofalo.

After a four-year hiatus, the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary is reprising its fundraising fashion show this month, joining forces with Burlingame boutique Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury and fashion designer Jason Wu. The involvement of Wu — who has dressed Michelle Obama, Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Gemma Chan and Meghan Markle — along with a fresh format have helped make the show and its ancillary affairs among the most hotly anticipated dates on the social calendar. “People will feel like they’re in Europe, at a Paris runway show,” says Andi Valo-Espina, the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show Chair

Every year, the Auxiliary puts on three fundraisers: the Opening Night Gala in January, which garnered more than $3 million this year; the San Francisco Ballet School Spring Festival in May, previously called the Student Showcase; and a third event that was the fashion show for decades. The fashion show dates back to the 1980s, and in the past involved department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. It last occurred in 2015, when feedback from guests prompted a re-evaluation of the format of the event. “There was eagerness to get it back, but also to wait for the right time — and that presented itself with Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury and Jason Wu,” says Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, San Francisco Ballet’s chief development officer. It was the perfect moment “to reinvigorate [the event] with something new.”

This year’s iteration of the benefit is spread out over three days, kicking off March 19 with cocktails for 100 guests followed by an intimate sit-down dinner for 50 — both at interior and event design-er extraordinaire Ken Fulk’s Magic Factory, with Wu in attendance. The next day, the fashion show takes place at the Bently Reserve. In addition to Wu’s fall 2019 collection, a retrospective capsule collection will be presented, entailing a look from each of his first 10 years in the industry. The designer has sifted through his archives to select pieces for the show. “I wanted to create an exclusive and special experience to celebrate the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary and highlight our astounding relationship with the Sam Malouf team,” explains Wu, who is also participating in a trunk show at the store on March 21 — open to all fashion show attendees and during which 10 percent of purchases of his creations will be donated to the San Francisco Ballet.

Photo by Erik Tomasson.

In a departure from previous years, the fashion show will have runway seating, with benches positioned parallel to the catwalk, rather than the traditional table seating for lunch. Guests can enjoy drinks and delecta-ble bites — think deviled quail eggs and mini ahi tuna tostadas — prior to settling in to catch the fashion show. Depending on their rehearsal schedules, dancers from the San Francisco Ballet may join the models on the runway. Wu describes the fall 2019 collection, which debuted a few weeks ago during New York Fashion Week, as “American luxury that exudes modern femininity with purity of form and soft romantic textures, highlighting the power of craftsmanship.” The afternoon culminates in a reception and a pop-up trunk show, including his retrospective capsule collection, which will be available exclusively through Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury. On the day of the fashion show, up to 100 guests can also purchase $100 raffle tickets for a chance to win a $4,000 gift certificate for Steiners Jewelry in San Mateo.

Proceeds from the forthcoming sartorial events are earmarked for a range of San Francisco Ballet initiatives, including new works, scholarships for San Francisco Ballet School students and community outreach programs. The goal is to raise $450,000 — a significant increase from the $284,000 raised four years ago. Of course, attending performances is another way to support the nonprofit ballet company. The Sleeping Beauty (March 9-17), Lyric Voices (March 27-April 7), Space Between(March 29-April 9), The Little Mermaid (April 19-28) and Shostakovich Trilogy (May 7-12) make up the remainder of the 2019 season.

For Wu, the San Francisco engagements are not his first time merging dance and fashion. He devised costumes for the New York City Ballet’s 2016 fall gala and the National Ballet of Canada’s annual gala last summer. “The experience of creating designs for the ballet and working with choreographers to elevate their vision was truly remarkable,” he says. “Ballet is so connected with the human form, much like my aesthetic.”

Wu’s appreciation and affinity for the arts is understandable, given their influence on his work. “The arts are all a part of us,” he observes. “They give us inspiration and hope, and challenge what we think. Every time I plan a collection, it always has inspiration from one or multiple artists — not only in structure and feel, but also the textile creation and embroidery design.”

The Events

March 19: Cocktail hour and dinner at Ken Fulk’s Magic Factory, 310 7th St., San Francisco

March 20: Fashion show at Bently Reserve, 400 Sansome St., San Francisco (side entrance)

March 21: Jason Wu exclusive trunk show at Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury, 1460 Burlingame Ave., Burlingame

VIP tickets (including all events) starting at $5,000. Grand Benefactor tickets (excluding dinner) starting at $1,000. Patron tickets (excluding cocktail hour and dinner) starting at $500.For further details, visit

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