By  on February 16, 2012

During Joanna Mastroianni’s runway show Wednesday, Zelda Kaplan, a 95-year-old guest, collapsed and later died at Roosevelt Hospital.

With her oversize owl-like glasses and African attire, Kaplan was hard to miss as a regular in Manhattan’s downtown scene. She also was known for working for her foundation, which informed African women about their rights and raised awareness about clitoridectomies. A frequent traveler to Africa, Kaplan was the subject of an HBO documentary called “Her Name Is Zelda.”

When Kaplan fell ill during the 1 p.m. show at Lincoln Center, Mastroianni’s husband, Gideon Lewin, who was seated beside her, alerted security and helped usher her out. Lewin said Kaplan had never seen a doctor in her lifetime.

Ruth Finley noted that Kaplan said repeatedly how much she loved fashion during their 15-minute chat before the show. Finley helped to get Lewin’s attention.

A spokeswoman for IMG noted, “Emergency medical care was immediately supplied by a licensed first responder who is on our security staff, and she was taken by ambulance to Roosevelt Hospital.”

Afterward, Mastroianni said backstage she had no idea about any of the commotion in the front of the house. Leaving the venue, she chatted with filmmaker Albert Maysles, who was at her show working on a documentary about Iris Apfel, with whom Mastroianni took a final bow. By chance, Mastroianni asked the filmmaker if he had met Kaplan at her show. It wasn’t until she and Lewin were en route to the showroom that she found out Kaplan had fallen ill.

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