Friday, January 31, 2014

Andrew Scott brings NYC style to Charlotte

I was shopping in Paul Simon Women a couple of years ago when there happened to be a trunk show of evening gowns by American designers Tom and Linda Platt. I fell in love with the designer line because they use absolutely gorgeous fabric. The design duo are inspired by architecture, so they create clean and simple, but dramatic silhouettes, that I find breathtaking. 

While I was admiring the clothes I also got a chance to meet Andrew Scott, the line's representative who takes those gorgeous dresses to trunk shows at top boutiques around the country, and I was intrigued by his own personal style. The photo above from Jan. 30 is of Andrew with model Ann Tarwater in a Tom and Linda Platt dress. (Thank you Sherrard Georgius for taking the terrific photo!)

On Jan. 30, while Andrew was in Charlotte for the Tom and Linda Platt special occasion and daytime dresses trunk show at Paul Simon Women, I finally had a moment to sit down with him at the store and find out details about the line and Andrew's own personal style. 

Andrew will also be at the specialty store in the Village at SouthPark from 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 31. If you can't meet him on this trip, I encourage you look for Paul Simon Women's next Tom and Linda Platt trunk show because he's a fashion expert, a wonderful (and hilarious!) person, plus it's fun to see what he wears. His NYC style and striking good looks definitely stand out in Charlotte.

When I talked to him on Jan. 30, he was wearing a Dolce & Gabbana suit with Gucci shoes and a sheared beaver scarf.

Andrew told me he grew up in a rural area in Connecticut where he and his siblings ran free and built forts. "Mine was the only fort with drapes," he jokes.

He began modeling at 5 and continued until he was 22 and realized he needed another career to fall back on. He approached a luxury store in Connecticut and asked if he could start designing the store's window displays. He eventually ended up becoming the store's buyer dealing with popular designer lines including Bob Mackie, which eventually hired him to come work for them in New York. From there he moved to Bill Blass and later Tom and Linda Platt.

He admires the way Tom and Linda Platt approach their craft, and he agrees with their philosophy that life is complicated, but dressing shouldn't be. He also loves the way women of different ages are fans of the line. "I have customers who range from age 23 to age 92, and each of them looks appropriate for their age," he says. And he works with all sizes. "A woman who's a size 26 wants to look fabulous, too."

When it comes to doing trunk shows in the South, he brings lots of dresses with color. Almost every fashion expert I've interviewed says that's something unique to our region.

"Women in the South love color," Andrew says. "In Boston, it's all charcoal and brown - that's what they prefer."

He likes to work with a "real" woman at each trunk show who will model the clothes for customers because some dresses you really have to see on a body to appreciate the style.

On Jan. 30, the model was philanthropist Ann Tarwater. As you can tell from the photo above, she's a former professional model whose beauty and poise made everyone stop and look each time she came out of the dressing room in a new outfit. The store's in-house fashion experts would accessorize each dress perfectly with jewelry from the store.

"She's our Barbie doll," said Andrew as he admired her in one stunning dress after another.

Ann created a sensation recently when she co-hosted the North Carolina Dance Theatre's "Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte: A Gala Evening in White" wearing a stunning white Tom and Linda Platt gown. Here's video from the evening, including Ann greeting guests on the white carpet:

For details about Paul Simon Women, go to For details about Tom and Linda Platt, go to

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Break out your red gowns and red bow ties

The Greater Charlotte Heart Ball, Charlotte's largest annual formal gala, starts at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 with a reception and silent auction at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, 400 E. Martin Luther King Blvd. There’s also a seated dinner and live auction. Tickets are $250 per person at

That’s just one of the American Heart Association’s events in Charlotte in February, which is American Heart Month. Others include National Wear Red Day on Feb. 7 and the Macy’s Go Red Total Makeover Event from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 8 at Macy’s at SouthPark mall.


Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, January 17, 2014

Art With Heart Feb. 1

In anticipation of the 14th annual Art With Heart fundraiser for the nonprofit Safe Alliance on Feb. 1 at Founders Hall, I recently toured Safe Alliance’s new 40,000-square-foot Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter (the old shelter was only 7,000-square-feet).

The shelter just marked its first year of housing women and children who are fleeing life-threatening situations. I was in awe of the facility and how every detail was thought out on how to best serve the residents who stay there for an average of three months as Safe Alliance’s staff, community partners and volunteers help them heal and build new lives.

I asked president Phil Kline how the average person can best help. He said there’s a constant need for diapers along with linens for the bed and bath. But cash is at the top of the list because the shelter is already operating at capacity.

Art with Heart is one of its main fundraisers, so buying a ticket is a great way to help out while also experiencing a wonderful evening filled with art auctions, hors d’oeuvres and mingling with Charlotte leaders.

Emcees Ramona Holloway and Colleen Odegaard will be back in action again this year

along with event co-chairs Hillary Lacouture and Katherine Daly.

Tickets are $100; $200 for patrons. Details:

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Drop trou for charity

Whitley Hamlin, one of Charlotte's most stylish women, is also very involved in philanthropic projects around town.

She just reminded me that Jan. 11 is the second annual Charlotte No Pants Light Rail Ride. Just like it sounds, participants go to the Scaleybark station at 3 p.m. and ride the Light Rail, minus their pants. 

Whitley has more details on her fabulous web site,,  and she has some terrific photos from last year's event. Be sure to see how chic she looks. Only Whitley could join in the fun while still maintaining her incredible sense of style.

Last year, two of our Observer staff photographers, David T. Foster and Robert Lahser, covered (or maybe I should say uncovered) the event for the paper. Here are some of their hilarious photos. As you can see, people of all different shapes and ages join in the funny philanthropic event.

In this photo, Whitley is on the right.

On her site, Whitley mentions the history behind the event. It was started in 2002 in New York City by Improv Everywhere. They call their event the No Pants Subway Ride. Since then it's been replicated on subways around the world. 

According to Whitley's blog, what's special about the Charlotte event is that we're the only city who has turned it into a benefit for a charitable cause. That makes me so proud! Charlotteans truly are unique in their almost obsessive desire to help out others. Last year, 200 articles of clothing were collected for Warm Charlotte. 

To keep up with all Whitley's fashion updates and all the philanthropic causes she's involved with, follow her on Twitter @queencitystyle. 

I went on the Charlotte No Pants Light Rail Ride Facebook page, and as of now it notes that 164 are participating. It says that the only two requirements are:

1. You must be willing to take your pants off on the Light Rail.
2. You must be able to keep a straight face about it. 

That second one is a reminder that while you're riding the Light Rail, part of the fun is that you're not supposed to act like you or anyone else isn't wearing pants. A lot of people bring a backpack or tote to hold their pants in until the After Party at Common Market, and to hold the clothing donation that's being collected for Warm Charlotte. 

To RSVP, go to

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Helping hands needed to create origami peace cranes

Photographer and community volunteer Nanine Hartzenbusch is in charge of a project to create large origami peace cranes that will decorate the tables at the 20th annual MLK Prayer Breakfast, a benefit for the McCrorey YMCA held at the Charlotte Convention Center on the upcoming national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. 

That's a lot of cranes, so she came up with a creative idea: Host a workshop so those interested can learn a new skill while helping out with an important community event at the same time.

Nanine is teaching two Origami Peace Crane Folding Workshops this week at the McCrorey YMCA, 3801 Beatties Ford Road . They're from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 8; and 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 11. No experience is necessary and you'll learn a new craft for the New Year.

During the two workshops, the plan is to fold 150-200 large origami cranes (12 inches) from paper imprinted with Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. 

The workshops are free, but you must RSVP by emailing 

The MLK Prayer Breakfast is at 8 a.m. Jan. 20 in the Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St.

The keynote speaker is award-winning actor Hill Harper (his photo is below), a graduate of Harvard Law School and an author, whose most recent projects are starring in the TV shows "CSI:NY" and "Covert Affairs," and the movie "Mama I Wanna Sing" with recording artist Ciara. He recently published his fifth book, "Letters To An Incarcerated Brother."

Tickets to the prayer breakfast are $45; proceeds benefit the McCrorey YMCA.

All area teens are invited to the McCrorey YMCA after the Prayer Breakfast for a free MLK Day Teen Summit from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to discuss social justice, higher education, entrepreneurship and civic engagement.


Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

A few holiday party details I loved

I’m completely exhausted from all the festive fun I had over the past weeks, but I’ll rally to share a few of my favorite observations of holiday party details I loved:

  • A well-known philanthropist who injured her foot and had to limp around on a crutch bought a bunch of sparkly supplies at Michael’s and blinged out her crutch, which became the hit of all the parties she attended.
  • The host who lives in a beautifully decorated but tiny, historic condo uptown placed inexpensive old-fashioned coat racks by the front door so his guests did not have to traipse through his one-bedroom to stash their coats.
  • The couple who knew the perfect thing to serve at their New Year’s Day party had nothing to do with collards. They set up an incredible Bloody Mary bar where guests, especially those who had overindulged the night before, served themselves and got right with the world again. 
Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Gather 'round the fire

As smaller-scale, less formal entertaining continues to be popular, guests seem to love gathering around a fire pit no matter what the season.

If that cozy scene is something you would like to create in your own backyard, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is offering a class titled "Break Out the S'mores - Fire Pit Making 101."

Eric Murray and Preston Sadler from Blue Max Materials who show the basics of fire pit construction and installation including design and safety.

The class is from noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 7 at the garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road in Belmont. The cost is $12; $10 for ages 60 and older; and includes admission to the gardens. Guests are encouraged to bring a bag lunch. 

Details: 704-825-4490;

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson