Sixth Annual CoUtuRE for the Cure

Philanthropy certainly ruled the runway at the July 27th CoUtuRE for the Cure Gala. The San Francisco Design Center partnered with corporate sponsor Morgan Stanley to host its sixth annual fundraiser, benefiting the local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The stylishly sold-out soiree kicked off with a cocktail reception, sashayed into a runway extravaganza, and literally topped off the evening in fine fashion with a grand finale auction. The nearly 30 lot items featured 21 one-of-a-kind ensembles constructed of haute décor fabrics, several shopping sprees, destination, spa, and beauty pampering party packages. The fashionable fete also set a new record with the evening’s grand tally exceeding $65,000!

Bay Area fashion luminaries, featured designers, sponsors, and special guests mingled in the Galleria Atrium of the SFDC as they sipped rose blush sparkling wine and sampled tray-passed hors d’oeuvres. Awash in signature pink lighting (the pink ribbon has become a symbol for breast cancer awareness) and a draping that enveloped the elevated 35’-long runway, the open design space was converted into a fashionista’s fantasy come true with the main stage situated on the first floor and a second floor dedicated to event sponsors. During the pre-show reception, sketched design slides from the evening’s auction lots projected on either side of the stage while the overlooking mezzanine featured veritable varietals from several local vineyards. Local altruists chicly adhering to the color code of pink, black, or white, queued up to collect their little numbered black books, which not only served as the evening’s program and run of the show, but also as an auction paddle.

The program commenced as KPIX news anchor Sydnie Kohara took the stage, she was joined shortly thereafter by her Emmy-winning co-host Jan Yanehiro. Both ladies donned designs by two of the event’s participating designers, Beverley Siri and Catherine Jane Mendoza, respectively. Auctioneer Patrick Meade of Bonhams & Butterfields was on hand to facilitate the bidding. Ms. Kohara set the tone as she welcomed the audience, “Many of the women in this room in this room have bonded through their struggles and ultimately through their triumphs. Many of the models are breast cancer survivors. It’s wonderful that so many of you are here to celebrate this cause!” She continued on thanking the sponsors: San Francisco Magazine, Elevations salon, participating wineries, and financial sponsor, Morgan Stanley, “The reason we’re here is to fight breast cancer, not just here, but all round the country.” Ms. Yanehiro emphasized that we all play a part, sharing an inspirational tale from This Is Not the Life I Ordered, her book of vignettes celebrating modern-day heroines. One of the exceptional women chronicled is a breast cancer survivor, who after her second cancer diagnosis founded an internet company that directly links patients with pharmaceutical companies!

Sydnie Kohara acknowledged the designers who donated their time and talent to the cause. This year’s featured designers, each contributed hundreds of hours of work transforming haute décor fabrics from San Francisco Design Center’s collections—all donated by participating showrooms and manufacturers—into hot couture collectibles. Participating designers included Autumn Adamme (Dark Garden), Babette with Josephine Tchang, Julie Chaiken, Lea Ditson, Joseph S. Domingo, Dema Grim, Patrick Jude, Nicole Lenzen, Catherine Jane Mendoza, Colleen Quen, Beverley Siri, Diana Slavin, Erica Tanov, and Julienne Weston. Many of those involved in the event—designers, models, and benefactors, alike—have been personally affected by breast cancer. Honorary co-chairs Mary Poland, Joanne Horning, Susan Kutner, M.D., Topher Delaney, and Mary Mockus, M.D. were amongst the breast cancer survivor models who strutted down the runway. San Francisco Design Center Vice President and volunteer model Nelly Saliba whose diagnosis and subsequent recovery from breast cancer inspired the fashion auction said, “CoUtuRE can help restore a woman’s sense of self-worth after an emotionally and physically scarring experience.”

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. According to the website, Komen for the Cure is the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Actively working to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease, the Foundation runs one of the most innovative and responsive grant programs in breast cancer today. It is the nation’s largest private source of funding for breast cancer research, screening, education, and treatment support.

This year Susan G. Komen for the Cure San Francisco Bay Area celebrates 20 years of patient advocacy, awareness-building, and fundraising for innovative research and community outreach programs. Since its founding by CoUtuRE Co-Chair Joanne Horning in 1987, Komen San Francisco has granted more than $9 million in the nine Bay Area counties it serves. The Organization has also invested nearly $1 billion, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world! Because ten million women around the world could die from breast cancer in the next 25 years, they are fighting every minute of every day to save every life. Although breast cancer is a global disease; reaction and approach to its diagnosis and treatment vary greatly by a country's culture and economic means. Ultimately, their goal is to reduce the burden of breast cancer on a global level. To fulfill the promise upon which the organization was founded, to end breast cancer forever, Susan G. Komen aims to invest an additional $1 billion over the next decade in breast health care and treatment for the underserved and in research to discover the causes of breast cancer and, ultimately, its cures. For the past 25 years, Komen for the Cure has played a critical role in every major advance in the fight against breast cancer—transforming how the world talks about and treats this disease and helping to turn millions of breast cancer patients into breast cancer survivors!

Since its partnership with Komen San Francisco in 2001, the SFDC has helped raise nearly $175,000 for breast education, treatment, and research. “Cause marketing matters,” said Tim Treadway San Francisco Design Center’s Chief Executive Officer. “In particular, we support the fight against breast cancer because so many in our community—our co-workers, colleagues, clients, and family members—have been impacted by the disease. In the same way that AIDS in the 1980’s impacted the design community, breast cancer affects us because the majority of our clients are women.”

Recognizing the opportunity presented by CoUtuRE to further its support for women in the community, Morgan Stanley teamed with the Design Center. “This event embodies many things we believe in—women making a difference in their community and in their workplace,” commented Renee Arst, Executive Director and Managing Partner at the San Francisco offices of Morgan Stanley. “Breast cancer affects everybody. The Susan G. Komen organization has made a difference for many individuals around the country. We believe in the financial, emotional, and practical support they provide.” Ms. Arst addressed the crowd, “I’d like to let everyone know how proud we are to be a part of this event, joining the San Francisco Design Center this evening. It’s a wonderful cause, a cause that we believe in and it’s done with such style and a different touch.”

Honorary Co-Chair Hilary Newsom-Callan took the stage wearing Catherine Jane Mendoza. The PlumpJack Vice President, who was celebrating her third year with CoUtuRE for the Cure, thanked the talented designers and the participating volunteers, with a special mention of one model in particular, her mother-in-law Mrs. Barbara Callan, a 20-year breast cancer survivor, who would later model a divine Colleen Quen cocktail dress. “Last night, laying awake at about three or four in the morning after three bed wettings and one potential ear infection, I thought about my speech. I didn’t want to be repetitive, what I’ve said in the past has been important, but I wanted to have a fresh angle. My husband and I have two obligations in our lives and that is to keep our children safe and to keep our children healthy, this is it. This is it; my life’s job is to keep them safe and healthy. And I look around this room tonight and I want to say thank you, because all of you are participating in my obligation to keep my children healthy, each one of you tonight is contributing to such an important cause and together we’re going to eradicate this disease, we’re going to eliminate this as a health issue for my children and I appreciate all of you for this. I cannot bring my mother, Tessa Newsom, back; she passed away from breast cancer five years ago, but I can help protect my children. Your ticket to this fashion show is just the beginning!”

Kicking off the main event, Sydnie Kohara encouraged the crowd to, “Show your support and enthusiasm… Bid high and bid often.” The news anchor seemed as light as air, in the most exquisitely ethereal Colleen Quen cocktail dress, a black frock with a smattering of yellow, white, red, and orange butterflies. One of the evening’s most moving and memorable moments was the bidding for the 125 Campaign, allowing guests an opportunity to donate $125 for a mammogram screening. “This donation makes a difference in an underprivileged woman’s life,” Ms. Kohara noted, “...the difference between life and death.” It was truly an event highlight to witness a wave of outstretched arms as the roomful of patrons raised their little black book-paddles pledging their support.


“Here I Am” from The Devil Wears Prada soundtrack poured from the overhead speakers as the runway presentation began. They were all beautiful, but some of my personal favorites ensembles included: lot 3, a lovely black tulip print cocktail dress with a bubble skirt by designer Colleen Quen valued at $1,500; a stunning black dress with a grey and black flowing opera coat  ensemble designed by Julienne Weston, which sold for $1,600; the exquisite strapless evening gown embroidered with a mélange of rosettes and (basketweave) ribbons in shades of pink, ivory and red along the bodice—(Oh, it was like waking up in a bed of roses courtesy of Beverley Siri, the designer has participated in the fashionable fundraiser since its 2001 inaugural gala) was a steal of a couture deal at $1,300; and the piece de resistance for which few in the audience could resist placing a bid, myself included, was a divine black satin paneled embroidered evening gown paired with a dramatic black and white maxi opera silk chiffon coat presented by Joseph S. Domingo and sold for $1500 to the husband of its model, Komen Founder, and Honorary Co-Chair Joanne Horning. I think emcee Sydnie Kohara expressed it best, “October may be National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but this event demonstrated that we needn’t limit our support and generosity to the tenth month of year. Indeed, we can raise awareness and lend our support year-round!”

A special note of thanks to Lisa Boquiren and Ellen Newman for accommodating us and providing event images.


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