For the elite group invited, this weekend's haute couture happening at Amen Wardy's boutique will be more than memorable. The fashions of heavyweights Bob Mackie and Oscar de la Renta will be shown back-to-back to benefit Angelitos de Oro, a support group for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County.
For Bob Mackie, a California native who now lives in New York, it will be like Old Home Week. He and Wardy have been friends for years, and his mother lives in Laguna Beach. But before he spends Mother's Day with her, Mackie will send his glamorous gowns swirling down the runway under a giant tent outside the swank Newport Beach salon.
First, however, Oscar de la Renta's fashions will be shown under the tent today at a $125-a-plate lunch and fashion show for 600 guests. Then the Mackie dinner and show Saturday night--for 400 guests paying $250 each--will bring to town a gigantic slice of Hollywood. And Mackie can't wait.
"I love California and I love going back for any reason, but especially the shows," he said.
The cherubic-faced, 47-year-old designer--best known for draping Cher and other luminaries in glittering ensembles--says he enjoys doing the Wardy shows because the boutique is "absolutely the most lavish shop of its kind."
"Everything is done beautifully, the ballroom is gorgeous, and it's a pleasure to be there and deal with such an incredible merchant . . . and I can't say that about anyone else."
But aside from Wardy's retail wizardry, Mackie likes the location.
"It happens he picked a lovely place to put the (boutique)," he said. "God knows there's not a lovelier place to be than right there" in Newport Beach.
The Saturday night crowd will see a 94-piece couture collection inspired by medieval literature and the ancient art of astrology. Forest green, garnet, burnt sienna, plum and teal are the predominant colors in elaborate and courtly silhouettes with swirling coats, majestic trains and lavish details. The collection also incorporates a splash of bright hues--orange, yellow, purple, emerald green and fiery red.
Like many top designers who unveiled their fall collections last month in New York, Mackie is making the most of luxurious fabrics, rich colors and silk chiffons.
Women's Wear Daily called his astrology-inspired pieces "a hoot of a zodiac group." Bloomingdale's called the collection "star quality with humor."
Mackie's wit races through the collection, which he says was inspired by ancient literature and fairy-tale characters. Each piece is paired with a storybook name: "The Tale of the Golden Trumpet" is a tapestry coat over a burnt sienna, pleated dress; "The Tale of the Enchanted Pocket" is a simple black skimmer with a single jeweled pocket, and, as a salute to Rapunzel, four pieces are named after the longhaired maiden.
The titles are his own invention.
"They are not actual pieces of literature, but they ought to be stories," says Mackie with a laugh. "My assistants said, 'What if people ask us where these things come from?' and I said, 'Just ask me, I'll tell you some stories,' and so I made up a few to go with them."
Among the collection's bright cocktail dresses, tapestry coats, wool jersey princess dresses and beaded cropped jackets over ankle-sweeping dresses are some swirling numbers in ombre chiffon, and these are the designer's favorites.
"I really like the way the chiffon moves," he says. "I started about a year ago working with chiffons, and people seem to really spark to it."
After more than 2 decades of costume designing, in which he earned six Emmy awards and three Oscar nominations, Mackie moved to New York 7 years ago to begin couture designing.
Because his reputation was built on glamorous evening clothes, Mackie strives hard for well-received daytime apparel.
"People always took notice of my evening things because of all my theatrical work of the past," he says, referring to his 25 years of costume designing in Hollywood and subsequent years of star-dressing. "They do come easier for me. There is a certain relaxed kind of joy about designing them.
"But I'm always pleased when a snappy daytime outfit does well, because they don't always expect that from me."
And although at first he resented his "Mr. Hollywood" nickname, now he regularly taps California's glitz for inspiration. His spring '89 collection was based entirely on "the California look," he said.
When he first moved to New York, he started rather tentatively, with conservative, "polite" outfits, he noted.
"But everybody kept saying, 'Where's all the good stuff?' "
So now his collections include plenty of the showstoppers that everybody expects from him.
Providing a slight contrast to Mackie's sparkle, Oscar de la Renta's is a more serious collection, with a hefty dose of sensible, luxurious daytime looks.
De la Renta was asked to show his designs for this weekend's Angelitos de Oro charity because "Amen thought his fall collection was the designer's best work yet," according to Wardy's assistant, Annie Bower.
"He loved the colors, he said the fabrics are very elegant, and everything is very, very wearable."
The fashion press has heralded his fall line's focus on comfortable, simple designs in luxurious fabrics: weightless coats of wool crepe, quilted coats with touches of Kashmir embroidery, wool jersey dresses and jackets trimmed in gold braid.
Syd Shaw, a de la Renta spokeswoman, said the designer's color choices for the season were inspired by the deep tones of Old Master paintings--garnet, purple, mulberry, plum and burnished gold.