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Inside Fashion World 

What could be better than getting together once a month with some of the most stylish fashionistas in Southwest Florida to dish about fashion designers, trends and the latest styles?

How about flying to the center of the fashion world—New York City—with those very same fashionistas to meet with top designers and a fabulous fashion writer, have lunch at the No. 1 power table and catch up with none other than the founder of New York’s Fashion Week?

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning ...Gulfshore Life Editor David Sendler had a great idea. Bring the inside story of the national and international fashion industry a bit closer to those of us who live in Southwest Florida. He decided to create a "Style Council" of local women: Mary Susan Clinton, Shirlene Elkins, Cynthia Sherman, Penny Anderson, Dawn Hoffman, Amy Oshier, Susie McCurry, Patty Baker and me. We meet monthly to suggest designers for one-on-one interviews with Gulfshore Life’s writer in New York, and to frame questions relevant to those of us who call the Gulfshore home.

The monthly column has generated a lot of buzz. But we girls thought we could do our job better if we were able to meet fashion’s movers and shakers. That called for a trip. Our host would be renowned fashion writer Diane Clehane, writer of our Style Council column and author of the New York Times bestseller Diana: the Secrets of Her Style.

Most of us flew up the night before, after receiving a coveted invitation to stop by for champagne at Bob and Suzanne Chute’s gorgeous apartment at the "new" Plaza. Then it was off to Broadway to see Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit. How did we get those great seats? Our own Council member, Patty Baker, is an investor in the show!

But the following day it was all business—fashion business, that is. Diane greeted us at New York’s power lunch place, Michael’s, and as we are all pretty famous (or at least Diane is!), we were seated at Table Number One. As Amy Oshier puts it, "Lunch at Michael’s was quite an experience. You got the feeling that deals were being made at every table." Dawn Hoffman adds, "It was great having ‘host/interpreter’ Diane Clehane giving us the inside scoop on the current fashion scene."

We were then joined by our guest of honor, Fern Mallis, founder of the legendary New York Fashion Week. Cynthia Sherman points out, "There was so much chaos in the fashion world before she intervened—a thousand shows in different locales held at all different times. She performed a Herculean task and transformed the industry by establishing a central locale and dates for showcasing fashions."

There are now "fashion weeks" in cities around the world, all organized by this amazing woman. We learned a lot and hinted for those "impossible-to-get" tickets. Fingers crossed!

Following lunch, we were whisked to the atelier of fashion icons Mark Badgley and James Mischka. Badgley Mischka gowns are worn by the biggest movie stars on the planet as they grace the red carpet. (Mary Susan and I actually bought Badgley Mischka dresses for this occasion to get in the spirit of things. When I got back to my apartment, I was embarrassed to realize that I had forgotten to remove the tags. Did B and M think I was going to return the dress afterward? Hope not. I love it too much.)

All agreed with Shirlene Elkins, who said, "Mark and James were wonderful to meet with us, and even took us into their workroom where designs and samples were being
created ... a behind-the-scenes look no one gets to see."

They took us into their workroom, where designs and samples were being created. Then, three of us who had later flights home had even better luck. We were invited to go across the street to visit the Badgley Mischka jewelry creators—and buy wholesale. Susie, Mary Susan and I were practically hyperventilating and swore each other to secrecy (sorry, girls).

Now back at home, we are all feeling like quite the fashion mavens, so rest assured that Gulfshore Life’s Style Council will be ready to tackle the new season with even more intelligent questions for our guest designers.

Our only complaint? We wanted more! So Diane suggests that next year we should stay longer, meet more designers, have more power lunches and really get into the fashion scene. Oh, David ... Mr. Editor ...

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