A benefit sneak peek at fall designs

So many fashions, so little time. But on Wednesday, style-savvy San Franciscans can flock to Fort Mason for a first look at fall fashions at Designer Preview 2008, benefiting Raphael House, established in 1971 as The City’s first shelter for homeless families.

Claudia Castillo Ross, Raphael House event chair, says, “The Nordstom fashion preview is the highlight of the summer social season. It allows our guests to not only benefit a cause but to get a jump start on the season’s key trends.”

Donna Karan, Stella McCartney, Valentino, Bill Blass, Burberry Prorsum, Derek Lam, Michael Kors, Missoni, Vera Wang and other top-tier designers will be showcased — each designer’s clothes comprise a scene — so attendees can compare designers and watch models strut the catwalk and revel in the runway experience.

Featured styles will be available after the show in an on-site boutique. Even if you aren’t model-sized, Nordstrom personnel will be on hand to take orders.

“Nordstrom introduced Designer Preview to San Francisco 30 years ago as a way of bringing the most influential collections from Paris, New York and Milan directly to our Bay Area customers,” says Alan Morrell, Nordstrom San Francisco Centre store manager. “There’s no doubt that our San Francisco customers love fashion, and each year this event is the perfect opportunity to showcase the season’s most inspirational looks.”

What to expect? Nordstrom fashion director Gregg Andrews predicts, “The overall feeling of the season is about glamour, richness and luxuriousness. You’ll see it in colors, textures and silhouettes. Fall colorations are berries, wine tones, russets, goldens, chartreuse to dark lodens, greens in combinations with blues, references to the earth and sky.”

Hemlines, except for tunics, hover around the knee, and trouser-cut pants with cuffs are taking off. Highlights include Donna Karan’s “amazing tweeds” with a coppery, metallic luster, Missoni’s blocks of color and Stella McCartney’s short knit dresses with little ruffles.

Everything is softened, feminine, with lots of knits and girlish flavor — even menswear is softened by blouses and high heels.

The evening kicks off at 7 p.m. with a cocktail and hors’ d’oeuvres reception, then at 8 p.m. it’s the runway fashion show, followed by a dessert reception at 8:30 p.m. Shoppers can browse designs before and after the show.

All proceeds go to Raphael House, which helps families at risk achieve stable housing and financial independence while strengthening family bonds. The organization has four divisions: shelter, casework/counseling and education, children’s programs and an aftercare program.

IF YOU GO

Designer Preview 2008

Where: Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $150 to $250

Contact: (415) 345-7262 or www.raphaelhouse.org

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