Ruben and Isabel Toledo, Leon Max, Michael Egeck honored at Otis gala

Student fashion show helps raise funds for Otis College of Art and Design in L.A.

The event: “The Spirit of Otis Fashion,” the 22nd annual scholarship benefit and fashion show, raised funds for the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles with a black-tie dinner, cocktail reception and awards ceremony, all leading up to a lively parade of student fashions.

The program: The yearly fundraiser has come a long way, said gala chair Shelley Reid from onstage at the Beverly Hilton, as she reflected on the original box supper gathering, during which models stood atop orange crates. The May 3 event, in contrast, attracted 700 guests, raised nearly $1 million and showed off the student designs in a blaze of moving lights, accompanied by dynamic music and imaginative choreography.

Professional mentors gave direction to students for what they designed for each sequence. For example, swimwear designer Rod Beattie of Bleu and Erika Kane of Mattel proposed bikinis for Barbie’s Malibu Beach House; Bobi Garland of Western Costume suggested researching and reinterpreting iconic dances; and David Meister recommended multi-purpose jersey dresses, which switched from gowns to jumpsuits or cocktail frocks with a flick of the wrist.

A silent auction before and after the show offered guests the chance to meet the fashion designers in attendance and to bid on the student creations.

The honorees: Michael Egeck, chief executive officer of Eddie Bauer, received the Creative Vision Award. Leon Max of Max Studio was recognized as the year's Design Legend. And Isabel and Ruben Toledo received the award for Design Innovation.

Egeck said he had three job offers on exiting college, the first with a bank that soon closed and the second with a sportswear company. “Thirty-one years later, here I am and it’s been a great ride,” he said.

Max encouraged the students in their career choice. “I don’t view this industry as something materialistic or superfluous, as some people may think,” he said. “We should fill our lives with pleasure and beauty. That’s what fashion is about. “

The crowd: More fashion professionals, previous honorees and other VIPs on hand were Todd Oldham; Amé Austin; Nicolas Bijan; Biya Ramar of Johnny Was; Robert Tuggle of Eddie Bauer; Christina Kim of Dosa; Maru Aldea of Under Armour; Kirk Nix of KNA; Bob McKnight of Quiksilver; Susan Crank of Lunada Bay; Art Coppola of Macerich; Bob Hurley of Hurley International; Howard Lichter, Jarrett Reyolds and Adrian Nyman of Nike; Linda Heasley of Lane Bryant; Bryan Stockton of Mattel; philanthropist Elaine Goldsmith; and Otis founding chair Rosemary Brantley. Cathy Louchheim co-chaired the gala, and student Arthur Thammavong was named designer of the year.

Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA.

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