Feelin' hot hot hot
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
It's not often that we anticipate a stampede of fashionistas in Honolulu, but we see one coming this weekend as the Hawaii Opera Theatre presents Act II: A Fashion Reprise.
Some of the Islands' most stylish women and men have donated 1,500 brand new and gently worn items of clothing and accessories for a fashion show and sale. For the past six months, supporters of HOT have been saving their pristine designer items for the events.
Nikki Nielsen, HOT's development associate, is the lucky lady who has been accepting items as they were brought in. She exclaimed over the quality and quantity of the fashions offered as she hung them on racks. The clothes and accessories take up every square inch of space at the organization's Kaka'ako offices.
"The donations are just fabulous," said executive director Karen Tiller. "We're so fortunate to have all these things re-gifted to the community."
While the garments are impressive, the prices are even more so. "They are definitely priced to sell," Tiller said. Here are just a few examples:
You don't have to be a size 2 to fit into these bargains, either. We spotted sizes 0 through 16 on the racks.
Men who appreciate fine clothing will also benefit from shopping at Act II. Some of the Islands' best-dressed men have donated nearly new suits, blazers, tuxedos, silk shirts and even an elegant wool overcoat to the cause.
Among the most treasured items is a Valentino couture gown with an intriguing pedigree.
The gown was donated by Phoebe Cowles of Diamond Head, who found the lace and taffeta confection quite by accident. She was at a Sotheby's auction in New York intending to buy paintings. Out of the corner of her eye, however, she spotted a collection of couture gowns that had been donated by some of the world's great beauties, such as Catherine Deneuve.
"I saw a ravishing black-and-red Valentino gown that had been owned by the Countess of Ravenel, whom I believe was French, and I thought, 'I can wear that dress,' " Cowles said. No one was allowed to try on the couture pieces, but they were accompanied with a list of measurements and photos of the beauties wearing them. The measurements of the Valentino gown, every stitch sewn by hand in the manner of true couture, matched Cowles' — so she bid on it. The fit, as it happens, was perfect.
Cowles surmised that the gown probably originally sold to the countess for $25,000 and would cost $35,000 today. However, she was the successful bidder at just $1,000. In its third incarnation, the gown is priced at only $400 during the HOT benefit.
Cowles wore the Valentino gown to the black-tie Cotillion in San Francisco and the Heart Ball in Honolulu. "But it's a very memorable dress, so I couldn't just keep wearing it," she said. "I decided to donate it to the Hawaii Opera Theatre."
This gown, along with Cowles' involvement with the Hawaii Opera Theatre, became the impetus for Act II. She brought the idea to the opera's board after attending a similar event in San Francisco, called Fashion x 2, a benefit for Grace Cathedral that generated $125,000.
It's a win-win proposition: amazing bargains for the fashion-conscious, and a boon for Hawaii Opera Theatre.
Reach Paula Rath at firstname.lastname@example.org.