The Crowd: Putting on a 'first-class fashion show'

The Harvesters did it again. The 18th annual fashion show and luncheon unfolded in flawless style Oct. 7 at The Island Hotel, Newport Beach. The charitable organization founded nearly two decades ago by two young women, Jill Johnson-Tucker and Jennifer Van Bergh, has grown in stature, becoming one of the most significant sources of funding in Orange County for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Along its path the group now spans multiple generations of fashionable Newport-Mesa women who come together to share in their incredible good fortune, providing major dollars raised to feed far less-privileged local citizens.

This season's extravaganza was chaired in the capable hands of Suzan Paek. Her equally capable co-chairs were Melinda Serra and Ann Smyth. In addition to the active participation of founders Johnson-Tucker and Van Bergh, the much admired Jennifer Segerstrom served on the advisory committee, planning and coordinating the massive event.

Arguably, the Harvesters fashion show is the most glamorous runway event in Newport Beach. Year after year, comments are the same: Guests in the crowd whisper that the women in attendance are more beautiful and more fashionable than the models on stage. It's a show within a show.

Van Bergh welcomed the crowd and toned down the sizzle level, reminding the elegant attendees that the working poor in Orange County are growing significantly in ranks given the state of the economy. The food kitchens are serving as many as 30% more people in need on a daily basis, and the Second Harvest Food Bank, which collects surplus food from all corners of the region including grocery stores, restaurants and more, is working overtime to supply the demand. Van Bergh introduced Paek, later joined by Serra and Smyth on the runway, as the audience of some 400 guests applauded their effort prior to the start of the beat of the fashion show music and the dimming of the lights in the fashion tent erected on the lawn adjacent to The Island Hotel.

As they have done for 18 seasons, South Coast Plaza produced what was certainly a runway show fit for New York, Paris or Milan. Designers and exhibitors included Chanel, Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chloe, Versace and Miu Miu. Also on the catwalk were Fendi, Dior, Pucci, Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta, Roberto Cavalli and Prada.

The fall and winter fashions are more elegant and more feminine than in recent years. The season features more color, more fabric choices, and an array of original designs and daring cuts. Along with the avant-garde, classic women's design is still very much in vogue, only its latest incarnation is a bit more modern and definitely sexier than earlier fabrications. Extremely original fabrics and prints are included in the line of Miu Miu with sparkling appliquéd and oversized floral adornments, making the fashion seem a bit more like wearable art with a decidingly Asian influence. This season Oscar de la Renta does a classic red ball gown that shimmers with a dusting of sparkling rhinestones accented with his tasteful signature bow at both the neckline and lower back.

South Coast Plaza visionary Henry Segerstrom was in attendance with his chic bride Elizabeth. The bi-coastal couple had just flown in from their residence in New York City, joining son Anton Segerstrom and his wife Jennifer, all front and center for the South Coast Plaza event. At the end of the show, Henry Segerstrom pulled me aside and offered, "South Coast Plaza really knows how to put on a first-class fashion show."

Self-serving pride aside, Segerstrom was indeed right on the money. With Elizabeth on his arm the power couple melted into the exodus of Newport fashionistas walking the walk out of the fashion tent and into the Palm Garden annex to enjoy a luncheon repast.

Among the Harvesters were Mary Adams, Joni Brice, Kay Bright, Paige Collins, Jennifer Condas, Moira Kamdar, Lisa Heil, Irene Martino, Jamie McKinnon, Allison Olmstead, and Jackie Melby. Also supporting the Harvesters were Alex Parker, Ginni Valley, Diane Cotton, Liz Hurley, Michelle Janavs, Michele Koll, Jana McGrath, Barbara Stoner, and Kathy Youngman.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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