Vogue Out of Style on South Coast Plaza

M all rats ?

Orange County society is buzzing about this month's issue of Vogue magazine and writer Charles Gandee's "mauling" of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

In the eight-page spread, titled "Life Among the Mall Rats," Gandee (pronounced Gandhi? Let's hope not) ridicules the shopping center's young and hip regulars, calling one a "mall rat . . . conspicuous not only by his perpetual presence but by his appearance . . . dressed with no less impeccable care than, say, Anne Bass, Georgette Mosbacher, Blaine Trump . . ." or the like.

Pardon me, Charlie, but I think you've mixed your metaphors. I have yet to see a rat dressed in Chanel couture.

Gandee also goes on and on about the plaza's insistence that it be referred to as a "retail shopping complex," not a "mall."

Well, why not? When I'm going to hit South Coast Plaza, I say I'm going to "South Coast Plaza." Ditto my neighbors, friends and relatives. When we are on our way to MainPlace/Santa Ana, we say "MainPlace." It is only when we visit Brea Mall that we say we're going to "the mall."

South Coast Plaza, with its pristine environs and international style (and international visitors), has become a California landmark. Why not just call it "the Plaza?" (Many do.)

Would Gandee like it if we called Madison Avenue "hype street"? Liberty "The Old Gal?" Fifth Avenue "the gyp strip?"

Nowhere in the piece does Gandee make note of the plaza's commitment to nonprofit causes. He doesn't even hint that the spaces he says are crawled by "mall rats" are regularly used by retailers and nonprofits to stage parties for charity.

For starters, the Orange County Performing Arts Center's support groups frequently stage benefits there. Tiffany & Co. regularly opens its steel doors to charity. (Remember its magnificent, tented, opening-night gala on behalf of South Coast Repertory?)

So do Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Armani Express, Giorgio and Cartier. Even the plaza's parking lot has been converted into a fund-raising party site more than once.

Another case in point: the November benefit for the nonprofit Severin Wunderman Museum being organized by Roger Martin, director of the Chanel boutique.

Over white fish at Gustaf Anders restaurant last week, Martin--perfectly Armani-ed in black wool twill--refused to comment on Gandee's story. Martin is a gentleman, after all.

But he couldn't wait to dish about Chanel's two-week exhibit of Jean Cocteau paintings, ceramics and jewelry that he will launch with a cocktail party on Nov. 7. (Martin has a reputation for chic boutique parties. Who can forget last year's sit-down candlelight supper, complete with floating white camellias, on behalf of Opera Pacific?)

"One of the world's largest collections of Jean Cocteau's works is tucked away in an industrial complex in Irvine," Martin said. "It's one of those little unknown jewels.

"The exhibit is a natural for us because of the historical significance of Chanel and Cocteau. She was one of his major benefactors." And many of his drawings of her dress designs found their way into prestigious foreign journals.

About 200 guests--museum supporters and local business and social leaders--will gather to sip Louis Roderer brut champagne and sup on appetizers created by Pascal Olhats, owner of the popular Pascal restaurant in Newport Beach.

Chanel goods will be under wraps that night--literally, "behind drapes," Martin said--so that guests can focus on Cocteau's works. "We want to educate people, help them develop an awareness of Cocteau."

The dress code? "Casual elegance," Martin said. How to get the look: "Dress in something you feel is the most comfortable, not something you see in a magazine.

"A Chanel jacket paired with denim slacks and hiker boots for example," he said. "Or an oversize white Chanel shirt with a leather vest and trousers."

Maybe Charlie would like to join us.

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