Bistro Stage for Fashion Fete Preview

Incredible. If there was a "Ripley's Believe It or Not" for social smashes, the breakfast staged by the Guilds of the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Tuesday would have to qualify.

Consider: 100 women--perfectly coifed, dressed to kill and artfully made up--and a smattering of GQ-dressed men arriving at Five Feet Too restaurant in Fashion Island at 8 a.m. Sharp .

"Actually, I got here at 7:30," chirped Irvine Co. executive Barbara Roppolo, an eye-opener in an emerald coat-dress. "Everything happens at 7:30 a.m. This is a power breakfast."

For the 100 women chosen to model in the Guilds' "The Center . . . of Fashion" on Sept. 18 it certainly was. Ditto the stores that will display $1.5 million worth of clothes on their backs.

Among the fashionables milling about the bistro before diving into Michael Kang's to-diet-for Kung Pao Eggs Benedict (slivers of rare beef instead of Canadian bacon, and a buttery peanut sauce instead of Hollandaise) were Roppolo, director of operations for the Irvine Co; Richard Sim, the Irvine Co.'s president of investment properties; Jim Henwood, general manager of South Coast Plaza; Roger Johnson, Center vice chairman; Janice Johnson, chairwoman of the Guilds, and Marie Gray, vice chairwoman of St. John Knits, underwriter of the breakfast.

Also on the scene: Thomas Kendrick, Center president; Judy Morr, Center general manager; Carlton Burnett, fashion show director, and Dee Trujillo and Fiona Petersen, fashion show co-chairwomen.

"This fashion show is going to become the premiere fashion event in Southern California," Janice Johnson told the crowd.

"The first of many," whispered her husband Roger, hurrying down fresh fruit before dashing off to his own power summit at Western Digital. "This show is setting an ongoing precedent for years to come. Orange County has moved into the lead in the arts and education; why not fashion?"

Why not indeed. The show, which will unfold in Segerstrom Hall, is being modeled after a fashion extravaganza that is held annually in Chicago. "I hear you can't buy tickets for that event," Burnett told guests. "You have to inherit them!"

Among the Orange County stores represented at the affair: Saks Fifth Avenue; Neiman Marcus; Yves St. Laurent rive gauche; Chanel; I. Magnin; Mi Place; D.N. Evans ("It was D.N. Evans who nudged the Guilds into doing this show," said Janice Johnson); Polo Ralph Lauren; Red Haute Couture; Fogal; Barneys New York and Armoire.

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