Forty years after she first helped to get the Posh benefit sale up and running, Hope Gimbel Solinger will be honored tonight by its beneficiary, Lighthouse International.
This story first appeared in the May 3, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Designer Lorry Newhouse; TheRealReal’s founder, Julie Wainwright, and celebrity chef Alex Hitz will also be feted with visionary awards at the dinner at 583 Park Avenue in New York.
At 98, Solinger’s honor melds together two of her lifelong interests — fashion and philanthropy. Her father, Bernard, started Saks Fifth Avenue and Gimbels. And her mother, Alva, was a founder and board member of Lighthouse. As for whether her parents ever gave her fashion advice to live by, she said, “My father was busy doing other work. My mother helped us select our clothing. She liked things that were becoming and fashionable.”
Sophie Gimbel (who married Solinger’s uncle, Adam) was a personal favorite. “She was lovely, very bright and very talented,” Solinger said before commenting on the current scene.“It’s quite good now. It’s wearable, and I think it’s pretty.”
Solinger, a mother of two, has arranged for her grandson Nicholas Stern, who like his father Robert is an architect, to accept her award. In her 40 years of service, the event has evolved from selling a few hundred garments to “tens of thousands” of apparel pieces, pairs of shoes and accessories. This time around, Oscar de la Renta ballgowns and Valentino and Christian Dior handbags will be among the many designer labels in the mix.
Kim Baker and Broadway musical star Benay Venuta first got the sale going with Solinger. The Posh Sale has since raised millions to help those with vision loss. Regarding the event’s long-standing appeal, Solinger said, “People love getting something they love or finding a good buy. And it’s very affordable and it’s good for charity.”
Newhouse, the recipient of the Fashion Visionary award, first got involved with the sale through Hamish Bowles and Amy Fine Collins. “What sets this event apart from other New York benefits is the scale and scope of the Posh Sale. Also, the quality of everything for sale is the very best. The donations from some of the best-heeled ladies in New York City are amazing, from Prada bags to Chanel suits and Hermès belts, to name a few. It is quite staggering,” said Newhouse.
Although the Posh Sale no longer includes furniture, Newhouse said she was once lucky enough at a previous sale to find “two lovely Chippendale-style children’s chairs beautifully covered by Mario Buatta — a perfect fit for my young granddaughter.”
Solinger, whose uptown apartment is adorned with paintings by Léger, Chagall and Picasso, also has a sharp eye, thanks in part to her ex-husband David, who served as the Whitney Museum of Art’s president. She is also the kind of woman who still values the importance of appearances. When a friend recently started to place a call for a phone interview, she told him to wait to give her time to apply lipstick.
As for whether Posh organizers and volunteers get first dibs, Solinger said those days are long gone and her non-Posh shopping leads to one place. “I only shop at Saks,” she said.
“Once I was looking for something for one of my daughters and Saks didn’t have it. I told a friend, ‘I can’t go into Bergdorf Goodman,’ and she said, ‘Of course you can. Just say you’re me,’” Solinger said. “I noticed people were looking at me funny when I said I was Nancy. Then a salesman said, ‘I happen to know you’re no more Nancy than I am. And I hope she spends her life in prison.’”