It was a successful weekend for the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s annual fundraiser, a partnership between the nonprofit organization, Oscar de la Renta and Saks Fifth Avenue, raising a total of $1.2 million — a new record.
“There’s nothing like being in-person for events like this,” said Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta. The event returned to the lake for the second year in a row, after going virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“Events are a key driver of our business, a great way for us to really engage with our customers and hopefully engage with new customers,” Bolen went on. “Tahoe has always been that, not to mention the fact that it’s such a stunning place. Lake Tahoe is really a national treasure, and we look forward every year to going out to visit the lake and to be associated with the league and their efforts to keep the lake beautiful.”
Started in 1969, when runway models walked barefoot at a Rubicon Bay beach house on the lake, the event is held to fund programs dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Featuring a luncheon and runway show presented by the fashion house, more than $20 million has been collected to date.
In its early days, guests were living in and around Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. It’s now a much wider audience, with VIPs from all over the country attending the benefit. For Oscar de la Renta — presenting the pre-spring collection — it’s an opportunity to engage directly with consumers, who are getting a first look and access to the line, made available for purchase on-site.
“We’ve shown it to wholesale accounts,” said Bolen. “They’ve placed their orders. But this is an opportunity for us to talk to the ultimate retail customer. What is the lady who’s actually going to wear it, we hope, think of it? So, we get very real time feedback, and that is super valuable.”
Pre-pandemic, they welcomed about 650 guests. Last year there were 350 attendees, and this year brought out around 450, with a higher ticket price.
“Saks is dedicated to using our platform to champion causes that are meaningful to our customers and we are thrilled to partner with The League to Save Lake Tahoe and Oscar de la Renta again for this annual summer fashion show,” Stephanie Maher, senior vice president of brand marketing at Saks, told WWD in a statement. “This event supports Saks’ vision of bringing the best in luxury fashion to life through experiential events all while raising essential funding for an important cause.”
It was in 1995 that Oscar De la Renta himself presented his first show on the lake, asked by Saks Fifth Avenue’s James J. Ludwig — who, as vice president and general manager of the retailer’s San Francisco branch, launched the fundraiser alongside Bill Blass (as designer for Maurice Rentner). It’s now in the hands of Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, co-creative directors of Oscar de la Renta since 2016.
“I don’t think things are quite fully back to normal,” Bolen said, discussing the business impact of COVID-19. “And, of course, some things will never go back to the way they were. We had a very difficult 2020, as so many people did; 2021, the second half of the year anyway, was much improved. And we’ve gotten back to 2019 levels in terms of our sales, which we’re pleased with and have very good momentum as we move into the second half of this year.”