Oscar de la Renta and Saks Team Up For Lake Tahoe

The fashion and philanthropy crowds were out in force at the lakeside fundraiser



The Oscar runway set on the shore at Incline Village.


Amid recent Lake Tahoe Basin dramas dealt out by Mother Nature (wildfires, smoky skies, and drought), event designer J. Riccardo Benavides maneuvered around a new issue this year on August 5 during the 54th Oscar de la Renta Fashion Show.

Set on the sandy shores of Incline Village at the estate of industrialist Kern Schumacher, Benavides had to redesign the runway structure for the Saks Fifth Avenue presentation of the ODLR pre-spring 2024 collection, which benefits the environmental work of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

“With last winter’s rains, I lost 25 feet of shoreline because the water level is so high,” he exclaimed. “But for the health of the lake, that’s a good problem to have.”

Led by Benavides and his fellow committee members (Barbara Brown, Heidi Cary, Robert Damaschino, Jessica Hickingbotham, Krista Giovara, Lindsay McConnon), with KPIX-5 reporter Betty Yu acting as emcee, this sold-out luncheon, show, and Christie’s live auction of luxe lots raised the league a whopping $1.2 million.


Lindsay McConnon, Jessica Hickingbotham, J. Riccardo Benavides, Krista Giovara, Barbara Brown, and Robert Damaschino.


The beloved fundraiser, founded in 1969 by Saks and summering San Franciscans, originally starred the designs of the late Bill Blass. In 1999, Blass’ friend Oscar de La Renta set the stage until his death in 2014. And their efforts remain focused on the league’s mission: #KeepTahoeBlue.

Since its inception, the league has raised more than $24 million to promote restoration of the lake’s famed crystal-clear waters. It also seeks solutions to man-made issues like invasive species, unchecked urban development, climate change, and pollution. On July 5, following Independence Day celebrations, lazy revelers left behind more than 8,500 pounds of trash, which a phalanx of league volunteers cleared away.

This year, the league celebrates its 65th anniversary as one of the nation’s first nonprofits dedicated to environmental advocacy and education.

“After the Fourth of July, a key initiative is refocusing on human impact and litter,” explains Kristin Keane, the league’s philanthropy officer. “Thanks to support from this event, the league funded a prototype for a ‘BEBOT,’ an emission-free, beach-cleaning aquatic robot developed by ECO-Clean Solutions that debuted in early August.”



Back on the runway, excitement emanated from the 450 guests, who also packed the Saks sales tent post-show to place their orders for the collection designed by co-creative ODLR directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia.

The offerings are exquisite. Rendered in a riot of multihued spring colors, the femme and flouncy fashions range from tiered mini and crochet shift dresses to silk chiffon caftans, tailored suiting, and gossamer gowns. There’s even a coveted camel tiger print coat and dress. As always, classic ODLR craftsmanship — crystal lattice embroidery, ethereal feathers, and hand-embroidered florals — adorn silk-faille gowns or cotton poplin day dresses.

“The clothes were beautiful, of course. It’s Oscar,” said Dr. Carolyn Chang, a plastic surgeon from San Francisco. “I appreciate that the ball gowns mostly had a slimmer fishtail silhouette, but with all the exquisite Oscar details: sheer fabrics, beading, and a gorgeous palette. And the elevated denim pieces are really fun.”



Also fun for Oscar fans? The collection’s premiere runway presentation. Since COVID, explained Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta, the storied design house no longer presents during Fashion Week.

“Different brands are reaching different conclusions about how to present. We’ve also enhanced our digital presence,” Bolen shared by phone. “Rather than being one of many shows amid Fashion Week, Tahoe is a destination event in a most unique and beautiful natural setting.”

Bolen — with his wife, Eliza Bolen (an ODLR executive vice president and stepdaughter of the late designer), and their youngest son, Philip Bolen — also relishes his annual dips in the chilly but limpid lake. Once again, their family “glamped out” on Porcupine Point. This primo lake locale is the compound of the extended Andrews family, whose patriarch, the late Dolph Andrews, Jr., was an original league trustee. His late daughter, Edith Tobin, was a longtime show co-chair.

“Fashion business aside, this warm family event is a summer tradition in our family,” Bolen said. “Now there are more children of kids who used to be kids at the show. That generational support is crucial to the league’s efforts to keep Tahoe blue.” keeptahoeblue.org


Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia.


LEFT: Jay Hickingbotham, Loreen Jackson, and Dana Jackson. RIGHT: Komal Shah and Carolyn Chang.


Eliza Bolen, Fernando Garcia, and Alex Bolen.


Betty Yu.


August 18, 2023.

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