Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Looking haute when it's hot

A new monthly feature in the Style section called Street Scene will give readers a glimpse of what stylish Charlotteans are wearing on the street when they're out and about. Look for it in the July 25 print version of the Charlotte Observer, or online at
Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Event celebrates the best of the South

I'm a huge fan of Garden & Gun - I'm a subscriber to the Charleston-based magazine devoted to the best of of the South. So I was interested to hear that the award-winning magazine is hosting "Jubilee: A Made in the South Weekend" Dec. 6-8 in Charleston.

I was especially excited to find out that the elegant and amazing Laura Vinroot Poole (her photo is above), owner of Capitol and the Poole Shop boutiques here in Charlotte, is one of the southern tastemakers chosen by the magazine to be a part of the event.

The weekend of festivities covers everything from sporting, shopping, music, food and art. There are also special dinners and entertainment.

For all the details, go to

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My first Vine video

My more tech savvy colleagues are testing Vine, the stop-action, 6-second video app from the creators of Twitter, and I decided to join them. 

I shot my first Vine video at the 10th anniversary party for RedSky Gallery on July 12. I had so much fun walking through the gallery and taking super quick video shots of my favorite works of art that are for sale. The evening was great, and I'll have more photos and news about it. But for now, here's the link to my Vine video:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, July 15, 2013

Belk makes it work on Project Runway

I'm just back from Belk's fall fashion preview that was held for the media at its SouthPark mall store. I can't wait to share what will be hot for fall, but there's some other exciting news to announce first:

Belk, the national chain of department stores that's headquartered in Charlotte and has the tagline Modern. Southern. Style will be a part of the 12th season of  the reality TV fashion design competition "Project Runway" when the new season debuts July 18 on the Lifetime network.

As a nod to show mentor Tim Gunn's famous saying, I know Belk will "make it work."

Belk is sponsoring the season's accessory wall, which is really neat. But even cooler is that one of the challenges for the designers will be called the Modern. Southern. Style design challenge and will feature Belk executive John Thomas as a judge. He's the company’s executive vice president, private brands. That episode will air Sept. 12.

Read more here:

The winner of the design challenge will have the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive line at Belk. I can't wait to see which designer wins the challenge. ( It would be fun if it was N.C. State grad Justin LeBlanc of Raleigh who's one of the 15 fashion designers competing on the show. )

During the run of the competition, Belk will feature "Project Runway" at with information about accessories seen on the show, video clips and featured products based on the winning designs.  

Belk will also sponsor a Facebook-based sweepstakes that runs Aug. 8 through Oct. 25. Entrants will be eligible to win one of the following: A selection from the Belk accessory wall; or a trip to New York City to see a taping of "Project Runway."

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vive la France!

In honor of France's national holiday, the French American Chamber of Commerce of North Carolina is hosting a free Bastille Day party from 5 to 9 p.m. on July 13 at the 7th Street Public Market, 224 E. Seventh St. uptown.

(The photo above was taken a few days ago of soldiers practicing for the big parade in Paris)

The market's vendors will have offerings of French food and wine. There's also a cheese and wine presentation. The John Alexander Jazz Trio will perform along with French accordionist Bob Wilusz. Bring les enfants if you want to - there are activities and entertainment for children.

(The photo above was taken at a past Bastille Day festival in Charlotte)

Parking at 7th Street Station is free for the first 90 minutes - but only if you have your ticket validated, so remember to bring it in to the event. 

Au revoir, mes amis! 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Gray Classic

Tickets are going fast for what’s become a super popular series of golf and networking events known collectively as The Gray Classic. 

Hosted by philanthropists Herb and Felicia Gray to benefit 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte, it starts July 19 with a Welcome Reception for participants at Delta’s uptown with music from the band Tiffany Blu and DJ Flemingo.

The golf tournament is the next day on July 20 at the Golf Club at Ballantyne. The 7:30 a.m. tee time is sold out, but a few tickets remain for the 2 p.m. slot; registration costs $95. Also on July 20 is the Women’s Empowerment Brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge hosted by radio personality Chirl Girl; tickets are $75. 

A big party starting at 10 p.m. that night at Vapiano uptown with music by DJ Chase caps off the events; tickets cost $20 and space is limited.

For more details about the events, and to purchase tickets, go to

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pencil in July 11 to help Classroom Central

Classroom Central, a nonprofit that collects and distributes free school supplies for students living in poverty, is also where teachers can go to pick up free supplies for their classrooms that aren't provided by schools so the teachers don't have to dip into their own pockets to pay for what they need. 

On July 11, the nonprofit is hosting its first office supply drive geared toward uptown workers. From 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. July 11, companies who want to participate can clear out any surplus office supplies and bring donations to a school bus that will be at Trade and Tryon streets. Wish list items include pens, pencils, copy paper, Post-it notes, binders and outdated logo items. 

A word of caution from me, though: Please don't "shop" your company's supply closet without permission. If your company is extra frugal and doesn't want to make a large donation, then you and your colleagues can always purchase supplies and donate them.

From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. during some photo ops for the media, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison is scheduled to be there along with Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon and Charlotte Center City Partner CEO Michael Smith.

For more details about the nonprofit and its mission, go to 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Super cool Coulwood

I had so much fun covering the Coulwood Community's annual Independence Day Celebration on July 4.

It started with a parade that featured iconic American images including Boy Scouts, beauty queens, young riders on horse back, 

dogs dressed in patriotic gear 

and people of all ages on anything with wheels - golf carts, tractors, ATVs, battery operated kiddie cars, bicycles and dirt bikes. 

There's was even a hilarious Duck Dynasty themed float.

Afterward, residents gathered in the clubhouse of the suburb that was developed in 1953 on what was once farm land. The fun continued with games, kids running around having a blast and a DJ playing music.

All the activity paused for a while as the Boy Scout’s Color Guard raised the flag, Pastor John Hall of Oak Grove Baptist Church gave the invocation and 15-year-old Hannah-Ashland McCord belted out “The Star Spangled Banner” better than most celebrities you see at big televised events.

Here's video of the Boy Scouts:

As heads bowed during Pastor Hall’s prayer, he gave thanks to God for being blessed to live in the greatest nation on Earth. “Some days we’ve been faithful to You, and some days we have not, but You have always been faithful to us.”

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy birthday, America

The social scene slows down starting this week as people head out of town, typically to the beach or mountains. If you do find yourself in town on Independence Day, the biggest community party is Novant Health’s July 4th Spectacular at Memorial Stadium, 310 N. Kings Drive. This free, family friendly celebration starts at 6 p.m. with field games and entertainment. The fireworks show is at 9:30 p.m. Bring a blanket. Details:

Also, it’s time for my annual holiday reminder since liquor stores are closed on Thursday: Don’t forget to buy your fifth for the Fourth on the third. 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Words of wisdom from Maya Angelou

I was feeling pretty sassy for 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning as I walked uptown to the Westin for the annual Maya Angelou Women Who Lead luncheon, a fundraiser for the UNCF. I had on a new dress I love and I was wearing my favorite hat, a chic little brown chapeau with a brown silk ribbon that I bought on a trip to Italy.

There was a lot of activity uptown and I was beaming as I walked down the street. After the first block, I began to realize I stuck out in the super casually dressed crowd. By the time I reached the Westin, I came to the conclusion that no matter what your age or gender, somehow the universal dress code has become a pair of wrinkled khaki shorts with a wrinkled crew neck T-shirt with something printed on the front.

I love the Westin - it's so modern, beautiful and peaceful - so I decided to stroll through the lobby. I was upset to see that the crumpled khaki shorts people had taken over there as well. They were lounging around the lobby and while some where checking out, cabs were pulling up with new arrivals in their crumpled un-glory. Come on, people. If you're staying at the Westin, you can be more creative than that.

It was a completely different world upstairs in the ballroom where the luncheon was being held. The women in attendance where dressed in pretty outfits topped with breathtaking hats.

I love my little hat, but ever since the Royal Wedding I've been wanting to buy a special fascinator to wear to some of the events I attend that require a hat. I headed straight to Barbara Howie's booth. She's famous for the hats she sells out of her Charlotte home. I knew she would help me find the perfect topper. She suggested several and they were nice, but when she put a fascinator on my head that was the color of wheat with a plume of feathers sticking out of the side, I knew it was the one. She boxed it up for me to take home and I cannot wait to wear it. (I love it so much, I wore it for several hours around the house when I got home. I'm thinking of wearing it to the grocery store, and maybe to work one day.) Here's a photo:

Here's a video of guests shopping for hats. Barbara Howie is in the center with a small white feather fascinator in her hair:

Here's video of guests entering the luncheon:

Before the luncheon, I and other members of the media met for a brief interview with Maya Angelou in a private room. At 85, she looks every inch the elegant and accomplished lady she is. She is truly one of the wisest people I've ever met. And she's fun. She had her glass of wine set out in front of her as she shared her words of wisdom through her thought provoking, and often hilarious, observations.

Here's video of Maya talking about the importance of hats:

At the end, as we each approached her chair for a chance to have our photo made with her, she gently chided me and the other reporters who bent down toward her. "Don't bow to anyone but God," she told us. As I stood next to her, she told me to push back the brim of my hat and to stand erect. I've never enjoyed being bossed around so much.

She told us all to not put our arms around people we don't know and try to act like we're friends in photos. Even though I found that to be a raw but true statement, I felt sad for a moment because I somehow I did feel like she was my friend and I wanted to touch her. She's a kind person, so instinctively she did grab my hand, and the hands of other reporters, in a firm grip.

Wise. Kind. Elegant. Intelligent. Fun. Beautifully dressed. Wow, what a lady. Crumpled khaki shorts people, take note.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson