Inn at Rancho Santa Fe hosts Art of Fashion

RANCHO SANTA FE — It was a gorgeous Rancho Santa Fe afternoon at the beautiful Inn at Rancho Santa Fe for the 56th annual Art of Fashion Runway Show, the single largest fundraiser for the Country Friends that supports human care agencies throughout San Diego County.
The luncheon was sold out at 300, as was the runway show with 400. The exact profit from the event will not be determined for several weeks, but the organization will be giving more than $100,000 this year.
Chairing this year’s event was Mia Stefanko and included in the committee were mistress of ceremonies Andrea Naversen and Melanie Cruz, first vice president of the organization.
The Country Friends, modern day fairy godmothers, fund agencies such as Rady Children’s Heart Institute, Helen Woodward Animal Center, Promise2Kids, the burn institute and many, many others. They make money by fundraisers such as this and through their resale shop in Rancho Santa Fe that sells gently used and rare items.
‘They have supported me for 20 years,” said Debbie Shinner, of Reins, a therapeutic riding program outside Fallbrook. “They have believed in me and our cause.”
Volunteers Molly Santistevan, Jan Fitzpatrick, Devin Lucia and Amber Persia Hodges were busy checking people in to the event.
“We love doing this. We love the organization. We love to preview all the attire,” Hodges said.
In charge of one of the auction booths were Claudine Van Gonka and Heather Finlay, from the YMCA.
“We are one of the agencies funded by them,” she said.
Standing by, waiting to seat guests at the fashion show were Marine Sgt. Robert Soto and Navy personnel Justine Pennel and Don Baird.
Passing out hard cider to guests as they arrived were Chris Ebstein, Rebecca Franks, Christine Gootee and Katherine Haslam who had all been there early in the morning helping set up the event. They all looked as fresh and fashionable as if they had just stepped out of the salon.
The guests then walked up the Inn’s pathway to a large tent on the lawn where they ate a terrific luncheon with Heidi Fleischbein providing lovely harp music during the meal.
This year’s event honored the late Luba Johnston and Pricilla Webb, who is longtime member and supporter of The Country Friends.
The Country Friends partnered with South Coast Plaza for the fashion show that was held in a separate tent on the grounds of the Inn.
Fashions shown were from the fall/winter collections of international designers including CH Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Emilio Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, St. John, TOD’S and Versace.
“What better place is there to showcase the world’s most stylish designers than at the Country Friends Art of Fashion fundraiser in beautiful Rancho Santa Fe,” said Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing for South Coast Plaza. “South Coast Plaza is honored to help support the many philanthropic efforts of the Country Friends.”
During the event, there were boutique-shopping opportunities offered by South Coast Plaza with the latest trends in clothing, handbags, jewelry eyewear and other accessories.
The event concluded with the “Apres Affaire” wine tasting.


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