As men, women and children dressed in sophisticated suits, A-line skirts, and eye-catching prints made their way up the staircase to the second floor of the Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallerie in Chevy Chase, Maryland, they were welcomed by elegantly dressed waiters balancing decorative trays stacked with sparkling water, pink champagne, mimosas and heavenly brunch bites appealing to any eye. These guests of honor weren’t just there to shop the latest in fall fashion at the high-end department store, but were also there to support a great cause.
Neiman Marcus in partnership with Armani Collezioni and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, presented the 8th annual Heart of Fashion Runway show and auction to raise money for children with cancer and their families.
While guests made their way to their seats that were adorned with gift bags filled with candles, gift cards, and beauty specialties, delectable brunch treats such as prosciutto wrapped asparagus, blackberries wrapped in roast beef, and tuna tarts were enjoyed by all.
Host Doug Kammerer, Chief Meteorologist for NBC4 Washington kicked off the show with a sincere gesture of appreciation for St. Jude and all of their hard work and dedication towards treating and preventing childhood cancer. Also among the distinguished guests were Kate Duggan and her daughter Leah, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a rare and high-level form of leukemia in children, at the age of 18-months-old.
Ms. Duggan gave an emotional testimony to the support that St. Jude had provided her daughter and their family throughout the period of time that doctors searched through more than 20 million of her stems cells in order to find a cure for young Leah. Three years later, Leah is cancer free.
The St. Jude Children’s Research hospital assists more than 7,800 children a year who have some of the most rare and life-threatening forms of cancer by providing some of the worlds’ best medical care, therapy, and emotional support. Although these services come at no cost to the families, the hospital costs $1.9 million a day to operate. Thankfully, with the help and support of generous donors, The Heart of Fashion charity event has raised more than $150,000 in the last three years and a total of $400,000 since the show was first presented in 2006.
Zip Basile, a Friend of St. Jude and event co-host, was thankful for the support and involvement of the greater DC community.
“Neiman Marcus and Armani Collezioni have been most generous in their efforts to help draw attention to a cause so dear to my heart,” Basile said. “All of this is just beautiful.”
As the modern tunes from today’s most popular hits filled the air, Armani models began their strut down the black velvet runway. The models first displayed an array of iconic Armani suits, followed by sleek and structured outerwear, and ending with Armani’s signature evening gowns. The real finale was the sight of exhuberant, cancer-free Leah Duggan making a final walk down the runway, smiling, laughing, and waving alongside one of Armani’s own.
Natalie Baratpour, a resident of the greater DC area and a clothing designer said the event was more than an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the best Armani had to offer in fall fashion.
“Before the runway show even started I was teary-eyed and looking for a tissue,” said Baratpour. “The little girl was so soft-hearted, and her testimony had me searching my bag for a pen and the donation pledge sheet.”
After the show, guests made their way to the auction table to see if their bids had won them any of the array of gifts that had been donated by El Centro Georgetown, Potomac Pilates, Starbucks, Dior, Philip Carter Winery, and Whole Foods to name a few.
In the final closing moments of the event, while guests took advantage of the stunning back-drop for photo-ops, young Leah continued to bask in the spot-light of the successful charity event. Holding her mother’s hand close, she grabbed the microphone one last time.
“I love everyone,” she said boldly. “Thank you for making me better.”