Parties: True Blue In Lake Tahoe

Written by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

League To Save Tahoe Fashion Show

Cause: Keep Tahoe Blue
Attendees: 350 Fashion Show Guests
Result: $950k

As wildfires raged this summer north of Lake Tahoe, ash and smoke smothered the Tahoe basin. Less than 24 hours prior to the August 7 Oscar de la Renta Fashion Show — presented by Saks Fifth Avenue and benefiting the League to Save Lake Tahoe — air quality was clocking in at a hazardous AQI level of 500-plus.

This beloved benefit (which went virtual last year) resumed in-person amid a nationwide increase in COVID cases, soaring Tahoe real estate prices driven up by escaping city (and tech) slickers, and South Lake Tahoe chipmunks testing positive for the bubonic plague. Yup, that medieval scourge.

But as they say, the show must go on! And it did — atop a catwalk set near the sandy shores of the rusti-gant compound owned by Kern Schumacher. But the usual dazzling view of the lake’s famous crystalline-blue hue was diminished by hazy skies.

Thankfully, the Oscar de la Renta Resort 2022 Collection, designed by creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, burst forth like a psychedelic rainbow. Flouncy, femme gowns and daywear — rendered in fitted bodices, billowing silk faille, and even gala-worthy skorts (which, BTW, are back big-time) — were a riot of electric primary colors, hot pastel houndstooth, shimmering metallics and full-color spectrum wildflowers. “Working last year with Laura, we were inspired by the idea of ‘fun summer days,’ as last summer was not that,” explains Garcia. “We superimposed prints of pressed flowers on our fabrics and embroideries in a vibrant palette of summer color.”

Led by the show committee (Barbara Brown, J. Riccardo Benavides, Heidi Cary, Robert Damaschino, Krista Giovara, and Jessica Hickingbotham), strict CDC COVID protocols were in place and event capacity was cut by half to only 350 guests, who happily snapped up tickets which, this year, doubled in price from $1,000 to $2,000. The organizers also partnered with Freya, a design line carried by Saks, creating a limited-edition sun hat emblazoned with an image of Lake Tahoe. Priced at $350, 100 percent of sales benefit the league and, so far, have raised a hefty $35K for its environmental and conservation efforts.

The afternoon — which, following the success of last year’s virtual fashion fundraiser, was also livestreamed for Oscar fans — included a Saks shopping tent, Chopard jewelry and Christie’s live auction. A custom Oscar gown fetched $40K and an original sketch by Garcia was won by Gordon Andrews, whose family’s generational support is legendary, dating back to 1965, when his father, the late Dolph Andrews, joined the league’s board and dreamed up the fashion show with Saks and the late designer Bill Blass. “Since the show’s 1969 founding,” says Kristin Keane, the league’s development and event specialist, “the Andrews and Tobin families remain devoted stewards of the lake.”

Also generationally committed: Oscar de la Renta CEO Alex Bolen and his spouse, Oscar Executive Vice President Eliza Bolen, stepdaughter of the late designer. “In a typical year we produce 120 fashion events, but none like Tahoe. This is our very first event in 18 months. And we’re damn glad to return to the lake,” enthuses Alex Bolen. “Guests are talking about the smoke. But you could’ve told me a plague of locusts was coming, and we still would’ve been here to continue our support of this critical mission for the league.”

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