Runway Ready

By Anh-Minh Le

Twenty minutes. That’s how long it will take for about 100 curated looks to parade down the runway during next month’s Parca Auxiliary fundraising luncheon/fashion show. Amid no doubt thunderous applause from the philanthropic-minded crowd gathered for the occasion, the first set of models, composed of Parca Auxiliary members and volunteers, will be dressed in ensembles from Burlingame boutique Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury. The second set, professionals from Stars Agency in San Francisco, will sport pieces from Jonathan Simkhai’s 2019 pre-fall and fall collections. The designer, who will be attendance, also plans to present a swimwear capsule – a perfect fit for the event’s Italian Riviera theme.

For Gloria Malouf, the 20-minute show is the culmination of nearly a year of planning and preparation. Gloria and her husband, Sam, the proprietors of the shop that carries his name, have been supporters of the Parca Auxiliary and its fashion show for more than two decades, initially participating alongside a few other stores. About five years ago, the group asked the couple to be the sole retail partner. The idea for a featured designer was subsequently floated, and in 2016 Prabal Gurung was the first. Jason Wu and Mary Katrantzou followed suit.

“Now, so many of our designers know about our event with Parca and are excited that we embrace fashion and philanthropy,” says Gloria. She and Simkhai had discussed his possible involvement for two years, and “the stars and date finally aligned, and we are so excited to host it together. I’ve always loved his sensibility for the young, modern sexy woman.”

Gloria Malouf (in sequin skirt) backstage with designer Mary Katrantzou during last year’s show. (Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography)

The fashion show is a highlight of Parca’s biggest fundraiser, garnering $280,000 last year. Since its founding in 1985, the auxiliary has raised more than $3 million in support of the San Mateo-based nonprofit Parca organization, which serves members of the community of all ages with developmental disabilities. Inspiring speeches as well as silent and live auctions are among the afternoon’s much-anticipated activities, too. (While Gloria produces the fashion show, the auxiliary handles the luncheon itself, including lining up the Hillsborough venue, coordinating rentals, deciding on the menu, procuring auction items and managing donor relations.)

Typically six months before the show, Gloria has the featured designer confirmed. Then, within the next month or two, she makes her inaugural visit to the private residence where the event will be hosted. This allows her to determine the location and configuration of the runway, around which the luncheon seating is arranged. “The year we had Prabal, I made the runway happen over a beautiful pool,”she recalls. “It was stunning but nerve-racking!”

Models for the first part of the fashion show — the auxiliary members, about 20 women and a dozen men — have their fittings two weeks prior to the show. For their outfits, approximately 80 total, Gloria tries to “balance the looks and trends we want to show and what looks good and makes the models feel good,” she explains. These models meet the night before the event for a rehearsal at the Hillsborough estate. Although runway pointers are given, Gloria insists that “the most important thing is to have fun, smile, breathe and gauge the audience.”

Backstage during the event, there’s usually an area for hair and makeup — which is handled by Halo Blow Dry Bars and La Mienne — and a “pipe and drape” space for models to change in. (It’s exactly as it sounds: a zone cordoned off by drapes that hang from piping.) Gloria sees all of the models in their first looks and makes adjustments before the show gets underway. “When the show starts,” she says, “I’m the one by the curtain motioning each model to go out and communicating with the DJ when the next segment begins, so she can fade one song and bleed it into another.” The music for the early part of the show — don’t be surprised to hear some French rap this year — is the result of a monthlong back and forth between Gloria and the DJ.

Even with years of experience under her belt, last-minute challenges are often unavoidable. Last year, the runway needed to be cut short in order to accommodate more luncheon guests (which numbered about 400). “Since the runway got smaller,” Gloria recounts, “it didn’t give us enough time to have the models for Mary Katrantzou change into their next outfits, which were so elaborate and time-consuming to get in and out of. So I had to sell Mary on the idea that the models could start walking onstage and then walk down and around the tables.”

Should any issues arise next month, Gloria will surely handle the situation with equal aplomb. “Whatever you do, don’t let the show fumble,” she tells herself. “Don’t stop the excitement.”

Spring Fashion Fling

Proceeds from a pair of fundraising events next month benefit Parca.

May 15: Parca Auxiliary 31st Annual Luncheon and Fashion Show, featuring Jonathan Simkhai; $250.

May 16: Exclusive breakfast with the designer for 20 guests at Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury, catered by Delfina, including a private Jonathan Simkhai trunk show; $500.

For more details, visit

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