Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Barrie Benson is so Pinterest-ing

Charlotte interior design Barrie Benson is mentioned in the January issue of Better Homes & Gardens as being one of the top designers to follow on Pinterest, a site where members "pin" images of things they love to an online pinboard as a way to share them with others.

"Some people say Pinterest is a total waste of time, but I beg to differ," says Benson. "It's fun and it's a way to remind me of things I've seen."

As one of the top tastemakers in the South, her Pinterest pages are inspiring others who gravitate to her chic and unique style that's a blend of modern and traditional. Benson joined the social networking site a year ago and now has more than 2,000 followers with an average of 100 more new people signing up each week to see what she pins. 

Search for her name on Pinterest and you'll see why her skills are nationally recognized including a photo of the little cafe tucked into Reid's Fine Foods that she designed, a dark wood dining table paired with painted white chairs and a closet she created for a friend among the many images.What's really fun is the different categories she pins images under, such as "It's A Party" that showcases clothes, hairstyles, decorations and recipes that would take any festivity up a notch. 

Her favorite thing about Pinterest is that it's a way for her to promote some of her talented friends. Under her category Light Brite you might see a light fixture she loves from one of her friends who's a lamp designer.  Under "Talented Peeps I  Know" you'll find people who inspire her including boutique owner Laura Vinroot Poole of Capitol and the Poole Shop, and fellow Charlotte interior designer John Bossard. 

If you see something on Benson's pinboard you like, you can repin it to your own pinboard (you do have to join the site at www.pinterest.com, but it's free). Underneath the image is the link to the original site where its from, which is great way to find new sources for things you're interested in.

"I know all this new technology is cutting into what little time we have to be quiet, but I really do find Pinterest to be beneficial," she says. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Music adds extra energy

During cocktail receptions before formal seated dinner galas, usually there isn’t any music. If there is, most likely its low-key jazz. That wasn’t the case at a gala I recently attended.

House mixes of popular Top 40 songs, but without the lyrics, were playing in the background, but the sound was turned down low enough that you could talk to the person standing next to you.

Having the high energy music as everyone was socializing in their gowns and tuxedos before being seated added a lot of excitement to the first part of the evening.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Meet celebrity shoe designer at free party Jan. 24

L.A.-based shoe designer Taylor Reeve (www.taylorsays.com) will join producers of the film "My Name is Paul" that's being shot in Charlotte during a party Jan. 24 to promote the upcoming Passport for Fashion show taking place in the spring.

The party is from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at All American Pub, 200 E. Bland St. in the South End neighborhood. It's free and open to the public. During the evening, Taylor (her photo is above) will talk about the inspiration behind her designs and a silent auction will raise funds for a nonprofit. Her shoes will be available at a 25 percent discount. 

Although she lives in L.A., her company, Taylor Says, is headquartered her in Charlotte. 

Her shoes, a favorite of celebrities, were most recently seen on the red carpet during the Golden Globes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I'm so over the one-shoulder

I didn't say it, but a leader in Charlotte's fashion industry, whom I'll call Madame Fabulous, put into words what I had been thinking for a long time. Madame Fabulous was picking out a dress to wear to an event where she was being honored. She narrowed her choices down to two cocktail dresses with completely different silhouettes at the neckline. One was the ubiquitous one-shoulder, the other was a scoop neck with short sleeves. She chose the latter - and looked modern. "When I looked at them side by side, I realized I'm so over the one-shoulder," Madame Fabulous said.

It was Michelle Obama who brought the one-shoulder look into vogue with the white Jason Wu dress she wore to the 2009 Inaugural ball. Then, it looked fresh and new. The dress was a sensation, and for a while it  looked so right. But about a year ago I went into one-shoulder fatigue. I cover so many events and I was sick of seeing it on every other person at a party. By yesterday, I was hoping that our First Lady would wear a new type of neckline. I was actually sending her a psychic message begging her to"move forward" with a new look.

Her Jason Wu Part Deux red gown with what fashion experts have described as a halter top neckline was perfect. In an online poll I saw today, most Americans seem to agree. The red gown is being voted as the favorite of her two inaugural gowns. They are both gorgeous - if she had worn the red in 2009, the white would probably be the favorite this year. What can I say except that fashion is fickle and so are Americans.

The one-shoulder is a classic look that will never go out of style, but hopefully dress designers and stores will realize for now to give it a rest. Viva la halter top - at least for the next year or two.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Midge Barron and Hugh McColl Jr. partner for NCDT fundraiser

Midge Barron and Hugh McColl Jr. are partnering as event co-chairs to raise money for North Carolina Dance Theatre by organizing the Dancing with the Stars of the North Carolina Dance Theatre fundraiser on Feb. 23 from 6 p.m. to midnight at Knight Theater uptown.

The fun evening includes a dance competition where stars who are leaders in our community – Belk CEO Tim Belk, Tera Black of the Charlotte Checkers, Bank of America’s Charles Bowman, Wells Fargo’s Julie Caperton, NFL veteran Muhsin Muhammad, Carolinas HealthCare System’s Michael Tarwater and Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation’s Paula Vincent - will be paired with professional dancers from the troupe, except for Tarwater who will dance with Metropolitan Ballroom’s Tatiana Kazakova.

Tickets are $250 person for the evening or $75 for the After Party. To learn more about the gala, the stars and the dancers, go to www.ncdance.org/Gala.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Prom fashion show

Charlotte Prom, a new store that celebrates the significance of going to the prom, is hosting a Prom Fashion Show on Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. as part of its grand opening festivities. Among the lines it carries are Sherri Hill, Tony Bowls, Flirt, Blush, Paparazzi, Flaunt and Mac Duggal. 

During the event, a gown and a tuxedo will be given away, but you must be present to win.

One of the neat things about the store is that when you buy a dress or tuxedo there, it's registered and no duplicate styles are ever sold to the same school.

The store is at 4618  South Blvd. Details: www.charlottepromdress.com. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's not an After Party, it's an After Glow

When I was interviewing Pride magazine CEO and publisher Dee Dixon for the profile of her that ran in the Observer recently (read it at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/01/12/3782505/dee-dixon-reflects-on-20-years.html), she filled me in on some exciting details about the magazine's 20th annual Pride Awards gala on Jan. 19 at the Westin uptown. (The photo above is of Dee, right, presenting an award to Abong Frankam at last year's gala. As hostess of the event, Dee always wows guests with what she wears, including this red ballgown. I can't wait to see what she has on this year.)

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/01/12/3782505/dee-dixon-reflects-on-20-years.html#storylink=cpy

The gala has grown to be a signature event on Charlotte’s social calendar. This year, three Charlotteans will be honored for their contributions to the community: Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, Thereasea Elder and Carlenia Ivory. For the first time, the audience will choose the winner, and a donation will be made to their favorite charity.

Handing out college scholarships is one of the highlights. This year’s winner is Myers Park High senior Christopher Simpson, a football player and ROTC member. “We wanted someone who needs to know the community is behind him,” said Dee of the student who has lived in shelters. "Sometimes his teachers would go pick him up and bring him to class because they knew he wanted to be there.".

The speaker is Bill Strickland, author of "Make the Impossible Possible." and founder of the Manchester Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh. He grew up in the Pittsburgh ghetto and barely made it into college, but went on to become a MacArthur Fellow and speaker at Harvard and Yale.

Dee is especially excited about the fun party that follows the gala - something new in honor of the event's 20th anniversary.

"We're not calling it an After Party, we're calling it an After Glow," said Dee."It's going to be hot. We're telling people to get babysitters, to get a room (at the Westin)."

If you're a guest at the gala, the After Glow is part of the evening. Individual tickets to just the After Glow will also be sold. MC Lyte performs at the $60 per ticket party that's from 10 p.m.-midnight in a lounge setting. No tickets will be sold at the door, they must be purchased in advance: www.mclyteafterglow.eventbrite.com.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Live with Ramona Holloway and Colleen Odegaard

On Jan. 7, I experienced being on live TV for the first time when I was fortunate enough to be a guest on WCNC-TV's "Charlotte Today." I was there to talk about my Best of Swirl 2012 that's in the January issue of SouthPark magazine. (Along with the Scene & Heard social columns I do for the paper and online, I also put together the Swirl social column for SouthPark magazine, which is published by the Observer.)

I've always thought the show is really well done, so although I don't get to watch it when it airs at 11 a.m. weekdays, I do make it a habit to check in on the www.wcnc.com site, click on Charlotte Today, and watch video segments online that feature people or topics that interest me.

I was especially excited to be there on Jan. 7 because it was the first day radio personality Ramona Holloway (of the Matt & Ramona show) was joining Colleen Odegaard as co-host.

The process was fascinating to me. The show's producer, Allison Andrews, narrowed my top ten list down to those she thought would interest viewers the most.  She sent me an outline of how the segment would flow. After some initial banter, they would ask about five event I had written about - less if we ran out of time since the show is very fast paced and they have to keep it moving; each guest segment is 3 to 5 minutes. She asked me to come up with 30-second explanations for each event.

Here's the result:

There were so many highlights for me. Just going to the WCNC studios was neat. It's very modern and sleek, with Emmys everywhere and photos of all their on-air talent that are such valuable parts of our community.

Hanging out with the other guests was an experience in itself. I was thrilled to be waiting with two of the legendary Lennon sisters, who were in town performing at a big convention. They kept me so entertained with cute stories about Andy Williams, being on the Lawrence Welk Show and sweet things their fans say to them. They are a part of American musical history - and they look fabulous - so that was a real treat.

When my time slot was near, I was taken into the studio and told to sit quietly because everything was being filmed live. I spotted Larry Sprinkle, the beloved WCNC weather dude who I see all the time because he's so generous about emceeing fundraisers. It was great seeing him in his work environment, but all I could do was wave since I was trying to be quiet.

I felt like a TV celebrity when a super nice man came over to put a mic pack down the back of my outfit just like you see on reality TV shows.

The "Charlotte Today" set is absolutely gorgeous. There's a kitchen area where all the cooking segments take place, a living room space decorated by Blacklion that's beautifully done where the more in-depth interviews are held, and an area with high bar stool type chairs that work best for my segment because the camera has to be up close so Ramona and Colleen could see the photos from events as we were talking about them.

I put a lot of thought into what I was going to wear, preparing my 30-second "sound bites" and praying that I wouldn't mess up horribly. When the cameraman started counting down the seconds, I took a deep breath. Colleen and Ramona are experts at putting people at ease and going with the flow. And I was amazed how the technical staff kept the photos timed to what we were talking about. Everyone involved with the show is so quick and smart.

The next time I see Ramona and Colleen - except when I watch their show on my computer - will be when they emcee the Art With Heart auction on Feb. 2 at Founders Hall. I know they will add just as much energy and excitement to that important fundraiser as they do to "Charlotte Today."

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Flip Your Gift

Gift expert Simone McDowell of HoneeBee Gifts has come up with a brilliant and fun idea that she hopes will take the shame out of regifting.

She's hosting an event called Flip Your Gift on Jan. 5 at The Ashton, 125 W. Tremont Ave. Guests can bring what she calls a "not-so-perfect-for-you" holiday gift and exchange it for something that suits them better (no gag gifts allowed).

To attend, you must RSVP at www.facebook.com/events/529044660453708.

It begins at 11 a.m. when guests will start registering their gifts (all gifts must be registered by 11:45 a.m.) From noon to 1 p.m., there's a gift exchange followed by a chance to mingle and network. Mimosas, wine, light hors d'oeuvres and desserts from Hey Sugar Shop will be served.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In search of Grace

If you’re reading this column that means you survived the Mayan Prophecy apocalypse, the Fiscal Cliff apocalypse and the Zombie apocalypse. No wonder we can’t help but look forward to the New Year.

But I can’t go forward without looking back, and there was a lot to process in 2012.

Professionally, I feel modern and invigorated because I’ve started blogging, Tweeting and taking videos at events I attend. Please follow me on Twitter @oliviafortson.

That – and the incredible people I’ve had the opportunity to interview this year – have made me love my job even more. It’s especially fun when they also happen to be well known celebrities. Those who made the biggest impression on me were Trina Turk (she is as bright and beautiful as her designs), Russell Simmons (I admire him as a visionary) and design duo Cortney and Robert Novogratz (they are fearless about following their instincts).

The thing I’m most thankful for at work is something that’s hard to explain, but I’ll try.

I never knew Charlotte’s legendary social columnist Grace Hamrick who worked at the Charlotte Observer until 1988. When I started covering the social scene in the mid-1990s, I inherited a lovely photo of her with “Best Wishes” written on it. Occasionally, she would call me and tell me I was doing a good job and offer her gracious encouragement. Her words meant so much to me but our paths never crossed before she died in 2002. Around that time, her photo mysteriously disappeared from my desk and I’ve pined for it ever since then. It suddenly appeared again a few months ago. The frame was gone but that didn’t matter.

What does matter is Grace, her elegance, her generous spirit and her hard work. As the world sometimes seems to be spinning out of control and technology creates constant change, I feel this need to find out more about the woman whom I’ve always admired from afar.

Did you know Grace? Did she write about you? Do you have a great story about the woman who ended up shocking Charlotte social circles by living humbly and then donating $6 million to good causes in our community? I need to know, to take that black and white photo she left and turn it into color. I can be reached at 704-358-5222; ofortson@charlotteobserver.com.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson