Dress for Success Builds Cabanas, Tropical Menu for Sold-Out Gala

By Anna Sekula April 8, 2011, 1:45 PM EDT

Photo: Jeeyun Lee for BizBash

Dress for Success' "Something to Share" Worldwide Gala
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Sporting a tropical motif established by huts topped with thatched roofs, palm trees, and wooden signs hanging from rope, west Chelsea event space Pier Sixty was the site for Dress for Success Worldwide's gala on April 5. The warm-weather look—which extended to guests, with a “beach chic” dress code—was conceived by makeup artist Bobbi Brown and fellow event co-chair Maureen Case, Estée Lauder's president of specialty brands; the theme fit with the limited-edition scarf designed by Brown for the female-focused nonprofit. Brown and the creative team at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics helped plan and execute the fund-raiser, collaborating with the crew at Dress for Success, led by director of special events Jill Pall.

A crowd of 1,000 attendees turned out—the tickets sold out the week before—for the “Something to Share” gala, which recognized 16 women from its career development program and honored Dress Barn, Ogilvy & Mather, and Goldman Sachs' “10,000 Women” initiative for their support of Dress for Success.

Three authentic-looking wooden huts helped set the scene in the venue's entrance hall, serving as the structures for two check-in desks and an activity booth. The latter held nine galvanized tubs of men's and women's flip-flops and strings of beaded necklaces—gear supplied by Old Navy and distributed by male models—as well as a makeshift shop where staffers sold the Bobbi Brown scarf. In the reception area, similar stalls rented from Tropical Tiki Bars replaced the more typical bars, each identified with painted signs. For the ballroom where dinner was held, Dress for Success extended the gala's motif to the V.I.P. seating by constructing 12 cabanas at the rear of the room, creating custom linens from the scarf print for the other tables, and using a simple wooden frame for the stage's projection screen.

The planning team was equally as detailed with the night's menu, working closely with caterer Abigail Kirsch to devise a selection of Caribbean-influenced dishes. This included hors d'oeuvres like Baja fish tacos and peanut- and coconut-breaded chicken bites served with a chili coconut dipping sauce, an entrée of banana leaf-baked halibut with tomato and mango relish, cilantro, and scallions, and family-style tropical fruit skewers for dessert.

Between sponsors, tables, individual ticket sales, support pledges made at the event, the silent auction, and sales of the scarf, the gala raised a total of $1,783,619 for the nonprofit and its programs.

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