Water, water everywhere at Otis College's annual benefit

Water, water everywhere at Otis College's annual benefit
Models show outfits created by Otis College of Art and Design fashion students. (Kai He)

The event: Some of tomorrow's sure-to-be fashion stars showed off their creative design talents Saturday at the Otis College of Art and Design's 33rd annual Scholarship Benefit and Fashion Show at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The black-tie affair honored Carlos Alberini, chief executive of Lucky Brand; Gary Schoenfeld, chief executive of PacSun; and fashion designer Trina Turk, founder of her namesake brand; and student Jessica Choi was named "Designer of the Year."

Event chair Shelley Reid, an executive vice president at MGM Television, called Otis "the premier art and design school in Los Angeles" for 97 years. "You heard me correctly," she said, "97 years."

The scene: In keeping with the show's theme, "A Celebration of Water," ocean scenes filled video screens through dinner in the ballroom. In the cocktail area, sketches of the night's runway designs lined the walls, with all fashions available for sale in a high-tech silent auction in which guests placed bids via cellphone.

The show: Fifty-five models showed more than 100 outfits, walking the runway against murals of seascapes, seashells, coral formations and storms over the ocean. For each sequence, student designers had followed inspirations given to them by design mentors, such as "dresses inspired by the mysterious life forms in the deep sea" and "playful chic ensembles for a yacht trip to the Italian Riviera."

For the latter vignette, models mambo-ed down the runway. Dancing also transpired halfway through the show, when youngsters hopped onto the runway, twirling their umbrellas to the tune of "Singing in the Rain."

The announcement: In a surprise tribute to Quiksilver founder Bob McKnight, Rosemary Brantley -- founding chair of the Otis Fashion Design Program -- called to the stage Volcom founder Richard Woolcott; Volcom President, North America, Kevin Meehan; Billabong Chief Executive Neil Fiske; and Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Assn.

On behalf of the surf, skate, shoe and active sportswear executives, Aguerre announced a new scholarship named for McKnight, "in perpetuity."  "That means, Bob, your name is going to be heard for hundreds of years," Aguerre said.

"I feel like a tribal elder now of our surf industry, and it's a nice spot to be in," McKnight said. "I couldn't be more grateful for the career I've had for 40 years."

The crowd: The audience of design, retail and entertainment notables, philanthropists and others included Bob Mackie, Karen Kane, Robert Tuggle of Eddie Bauer, Mary Bruno of J Brand, Susan Crank of Lunada Bay, Art Coppola of Macerich, Lois and Jerry Magnin, Kirk Nix of KNA, Steve Stark of MGM, Brian Robinson of Dreamworks Animation, producer Mace Neufeld, philanthropists Elaine and Bram Goldsmith, Eva and Ming Hsieh, and Billie Weisman, architect Fred Fisher and Otis board chair Gail Buchalter. Reid headed up the benefit committee, alongside Brantley, co-chair Cathy Louchheim and founding chair Elaine Goldsmith.

Quote of note: "I'm thrilled to be at one of the world's leading art and design colleges at a time when California cultural institutions and creative industries are such significant forces throughout the world," said Otis President-elect Bruce Ferguson. "So if location and timing are everything, I couldn't be in a better place at a better time."

The numbers: Tickets for the 750 guests began at $500 (with specially priced tickets for alumni) and tables ranged up to $50,000, resulting in nearly $1 million raised.

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