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Preview: Approaching The Runway

By Anh-Minh Le

The SF Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show will feature Maison Rabih Kayrouz’s fall collection, which includes a strapless dress covered in Swarovski crystals. | Photo courtesy of Mathieu Maury.

The long-awaited SF Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show is back on the calendar.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the term “fashionably late” has taken on new meaning in the couture world: Industry-wide production and delivery delays shook up collections and calendars.

Two years ago, Gloria Malouf was finalizing plans for the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show that would mark Maison Rabih Kayrouz’s inaugural runway presentation in the United States. Alas, the show could not go on. Not in 2020. Nor 2021.

But Malouf and Paris-based Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz, a member of the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, were steadfast in their commitment to the event, which benefits SF Ballet initiatives such as new works, San Francisco Ballet School scholarships and community outreach programs. It is now slated for Wednesday, March 30, at Saint Joseph’s Arts Society in SoMa — the 1913 cathedral restored and reimagined as a striking venue by Ken Fulk.

When Malouf and Kayrouz first met in Paris in 2019, she brought up the fundraising fashion show. “I was immediately seduced by the idea,” he recalls, “and obviously flattered and honored that Gloria thought of me to participate in such a beautiful project.”

“Bay Area women will resonate with his sensibility, as his ethos is wearable couture, where clothes are meant to be worn and not precious,” says Malouf. “His designs are clean, strong and for the modern independent-minded woman who is not afraid to have her own identity and doesn’t need logos to identify herself.”

Fashion show chair Rhonda Mahendroo notes that MRK “exemplifies the interconnectivity of fashion, art and life. His designs are fresh, relevant and elegant — all at the same time.” According to Malouf, MRK has “a cultlike following” at Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury, the Burlingame boutique she owns with husband Sam.

The Maloufs were also involved with the last auxiliary fashion show, when designer Jason Wu came to town in 2019. Prior to that, the event, which dates back to 1980, had taken a four-year pause. “It’s wonderful that the auxiliary has been able to keep the tradition going,” says Katie Colendich, who was appointed president of the SF Ballet Auxiliary last June.

The SF Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show will feature Maison Rabih Kayrouz’s fall collection, which includes a gown composed of individual lengths of gold-colored cords. | Photo courtesy of Mathieu Maury.

The fashion show is one of three signature annual fundraisers for the auxiliary, formed in 1960 to support the ballet company. Together with the Opening Gala (postponed this year from January to March 24) and May’s Spring Festival, the group aims to generate more than $4 million. A new event held in Napa Valley last fall, with wine tastings as well as a luncheon and dinner, may become a regular occurrence, too.

The fundraising goal for this year’s fashion show is $300,000. The $500 Patron ticket includes a seated lunch by Elaine Bell Catering. Rather than a linear platform, the catwalk will weave through the tables, providing a more engaging experience for the 180 or so patrons. The afternoon concludes with a shopping session with Kayrouz. (At the $1,000 Grand Benefactor and $5,000 VIP levels, guests are invited to partake in additional activities with the designer: A reception and an intimate dinner at the Fairmont San Francisco penthouse are scheduled for the eve of the show.)

Among the dozen-plus runway looks that will be presented are pieces from the MRK Fall 2022 Ready-to-Wear Collection. “I wanted to play with a colorful palette with warm colors to have a powerful impact,” says Kayrouz of the designs. “One of the main inspirations is the Bauhaus era and constructivism, which reflects in the sharp shapes. I wanted a very neat and clean silhouette, very couture and architectural. … There is also a more urban note: I wanted to work with unexpected materials, like vinyl, technical taffetas and double Milano (a thick jersey), adding something new to the collection.”

For Malouf, the dresses are the standouts. Her favorites: “One that was put together with individual fabric ‘cords’ wrapped around the entirety of the gown” and a “strapless gown that had very defined, exaggerated sculpted curves at the hips and was fully beaded with Swarovski crystals.”

SF Ballet principal dancers Mathilde Froustey and Dores André are expected to model in the show. “Movement has a great importance in my creations: how the body moves, how fabrics must evolve with it and not hinder it, that’s what I care about,” says Kayrouz. “And having a fashion show with dancers has always been a dream of mine.” In the past, dancers — including Marie-Agnès Gillot, Blanca Li and Yousra Mohsen — have performed during his shows.

Kayrouz’s upcoming trip to San Francisco will be his maiden visit. “I have dreamt about this city for quite some time now: the California sunlight, the architecture, the fog, the diversity of cultures, the energy,” he says.

His anticipation is about much more than seeing the sights. “A lot has happened in the past two years, often sad and painful,” reflects Kayrouz, adding that he hopes the auxiliary show “will bring beauty, lightness and enchantment to the attendees. That’s what I try to do — make people feel good in my clothes.”

SF Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show presented with Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury and featuring Maison Rabih Kayrouz, March 30, 11 a.m., Saint Joseph’s Art Society, San Francisco;

SF Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show

Presented with Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury and featuring Maison Rabih Kayrouz, March 30, 11 a.m., Saint Joseph’s Art Society, San Francisco.

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