Style Week Orange County to begin Saturday

Kendra Scott's jewelry empire began with wire-wrapped stones, a tea box and $500.

Oh, and her 3-month-old Baby Bjorn-clad son, Cade, for company.

In 2002, the Austin, Texas, resident dipped into her savings to convert her passion for fashion into a full-time business. Her decision, although decried by many, was aimed at digging her family out of a particularly deep financial pit.

The risk paid off when every local boutique door she knocked on led to an order. Armed with a mini-collection of only about two dozen pieces, she kept her promise to her husband and doubled their starting costs.

"I began designing jewelry when I was in my 20s as a hobby after realizing there were certain jewelry pieces I wanted but couldn't find," Scott, 39, recounted. "My friends began asking me to make jewelry for them too, and I had an 'a-ha' moment, realizing I could make a career out of this."

After launching her line out of a spare bedroom, Scott has, in the ensuing 11 years, established eight stores nationwide. The one at Fashion Island, which she deems "undoubtedly our most gorgeous," will feature prominently at the upcoming Style Week Orange County from Saturday to Oct. 5.

A frequent visitor to the coastal communities of Southern California, Scott, whose appreciation for fashion dates back to when she was a toddler trying on her mother's heels, remarked that she had long dreamed of being part of Newport Beach's outdoor shopping center. She got her wish earlier this year when her eponymous boutique was greeted warmly by the community.

For its first time participating in the event, Kendra Scott Jewelry will host a special Girl's Night Out from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, including light refreshments by Paul Martin's American Grill, two masseuses and a gold or rhodium Bethany Bangle — one of her top-selling items priced at $85 — as an accompaniment to all purchases.

But, shopping alert: the fun at Style Week doesn't end there.

On opening day, celebrity fashion designer and Project Runway alum Nick Verreos will host "Cadillac Couture: Design Competition" at 7 p.m. at the Irvine Spectrum Center. The automotive behemoth has teamed up with the Irvine Company as the presenting sponsor of the weeklong festivities for the fourth time.

Highlighting a variety of Cadillac-inspired designs, the challenge has been integrated into the curriculum at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising's advanced program, with students basing their evening gowns on different models' designs and parts. The winner will be awarded $2,000.

"The design competition was created to further integrate Cadillac into Style Week and demonstrate the parallels between luxury automotive design and fashion design," Sam Prabakaran, the company's regional marketing manager, wrote in an email. "This annual event provides a unique way of highlighting Cadillac's 'Art and Design' philosophy and great new vehicles like the all-new ATS and XTS."

A runway show will follow, spotlighting the season's trends with retailers including Macy's, Nordstrom, MaxStudio and American Apparel, among others. The popular retail outpost's Giant Wheel Court will also provide the backdrop for makeup demonstrations and makeovers by Cirque du Soleil's lead artist Thursday.

"Last year, we had an estimated 20,000 people who attended the events from Fashion Island and Irvine Spectrum Center — this year we anticipate possibly more, since we are including the Market Place for the first time," Stacie Ellis, senior director of marketing for Irvine Company Retail Properties, said.

She finds that with a mix of pop-up style closets, informal modeling and in-store parties, Style Week OC highlights established anchors plus the area's newcomers, also making room for household names alongside young talent.

Ahmad Murtaza, an FIDM alum, is one such emerging designer.

Works by the Irvine resident will be showcased at the 2nd annual "Fabulous Soirée: A Benefit for the FIDM Museum and Galleries" from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Neiman Marcus-Bloomingdale's courtyard. Murtaza, 46, debuted his work in March at a fashion show in Santa Monica, a prerequisite for earning his degree.

Having spent time in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Dubai, New Jersey and parts of Europe, Murtaza described his pieces as "eclectic." Named "Maharaja" or "king" in Hindi, his garments blend fabrics and embellishments from the East and cuts and silhouettes of the West.

"I enjoy traveling," said Murtaza, a former Cadillac Couture contestant, who first encountered designing when he worked for his father's gems and jewels company. "I absorb cultures around me and mix diverse textures and methods in my clothes."

Subscribing to the adage that an outfit is incomplete without the right accessories, Fashion Island's showcase on Wednesday, comprising Uno de 50, C. Wonder and other boutiques, will offer shoppers accents a la mode. The venue will also welcome new retailers, such as Babakul, Halston Heritage and Kitson, and present a runway show in the days after.

Tustin's Marketplace will also join in the fun with pop-up wardrobes featuring outfits by Ann Taylor LOFT, Loehmann's and Steinmart.

Scott, a footwear enthusiast with a soft spot for vibrant colors, recently gave birth to her third child and will not be attending the festivities. That isn't stopping her, though, from looking ahead to next week with palpable excitement.

"The fashion landscape of Orange County is so fantastic because it's the perfect blend of high fashion meets casual wear," she said. "Being so close to LA, fashion trends trickle to OC pretty quickly, but there's still this carefree, laid-back beach vibe that filtrates through the fashion scene in the area."

If You Go

What: Style Week Orange County

Where: Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach; Irvine Spectrum Center, 71 Fortune Drive, Irvine; The Marketplace, 2915 El Camino Real, Tustin

When: Sept. 28 to Oct. 5

Cost: Admission to events and runway shows is free; tickets to FIDM benefit gala on Oct. 5 is $100


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