Monday, July 28, 2014

August events

Here are a few of the events I hope to add to my social calendar in August.

Aug. 8
A fundraiser for Carolina Breast Friends that includes a HeadHunterz competition for student stylists and a Pink Tie Charity Auction for men affected by cancer. The "mane" event is a runway show of designers and models that also features a survivors walk when cancer survivors of all ages and backgrounds take to the runway to celebrate overcoming cancer. The VIP reception and charity auction is from 6 to 7:30 p.m; the runway show is from 8 to 10 p.m. Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St. Ticket prices vary. Details:

Aug. 17 
This fundraiser for gynecologic cancer research and awareness is hosted by the nonprofit Lydia's Legacy. It's from 3 to 6 p.m. at Byron's South End, 101 Worthington Ave. Tickets are $55 for survivors of any type of cancer, $65 general admission and $150 for supporters (includes your name in the program and a reserved seat). Details:

Aug. 17
The Charlotte Museum of History hosts this tea focusing on the tea-time customs of Scotland. It features Scottish blend brand tea, shortbread, ham sandwiches and Scottish shortbread. Peter Wilson, president of Great Scot International, is the speaker. 4-5 p.m. at the museum, 3500 Shamrock Drive. $20, $15 for members. Registration required: 704-568-1774;

Aug. 22-24
A three-day event where homeowners can find solutions for their home and garden needs. Plus there are two stages of experts sharing tips on cooking, interior design and home improvement. The Park Expo and Conference Center, 800 Briar Creek Road. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 22, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 23 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 24. Admission is $9 at the door, free for 14 and younger with a paying adult. Details:

Aug. 23
This is the 26th anniversary of the 1920s themed black tie, costume gala to benefit the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National MS Society. This popular party features music, dancing, a silent auction and food from some of Charlotte's best restaurants. 7 to 11 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Atrium, 301 S. Tryon St. Tickets are $75 per person in advance or $100 per person at the door. Details:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, July 18, 2014

A new wedding trend

I recently attended the outdoor wedding of a gorgeous young couple who met at Appalachian State University.

The wedding was relaxed and beautiful. And it opened my eyes to some new wedding trends including this sign that greeted guests. It gave us all permission to sit anywhere we wanted. The groomsmen still escorted women to their seats.

Just as the couple were joined together to create a new family, it was fun to have both sides of each family all mixed in together.

I thought it was cute the way the sign said, "Friends of the Bride, Friends of the Groom, Please Sit Together, There's Plenty of Room"

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, July 14, 2014

Red, white and bleu

If you drive by my house today, you'll see the French flag proudly displayed in honor of Bastille Day, France's national holiday celebrated every July 14.

Oui. I'm a Francophile. Plus my husband has French roots. His ancestors were Huguenots (French Protestants) who fled their homeland and eventually ended up in Charleston, S.C. My husband's great-great-great-great grandfather was a founder of the Huguenot church in Charleston and every time we visit we always go by to pay our regards to good ol' Phillipe, whose name is on a plaque at the church.)

One of the many things that fascinates me about France is how effortlessly stylish the women are. I have stared at them and studied them and it's so hard to pinpoint exactly why they are so chic. I think if I had to narrow it down to one thought, it's that they take what they have and make the most of it. And they don't willingly give their secrets away, which makes them mysterious and also a little frightening. Don't dare ask them questions!

Thanks to stylist-turned-designer Rachel Zoe's Bastille Day posting in the free emails she sends out as part of The Zoe Report, I now know the women even the French consider to be the most stylish.

Zoe shares the ones she follows on Instagram, so now I can stare at their style all I want without being rude.

1. Caroline de Maigret, a model/music producer and It girl;

2. Lou Doillon, a model/actress/singer. Her mother is style legend Jane Birkin and her half-sister is Charlotte Gainsbourg.

3. Garance Dore, a fashion blogger;

4. Cora Emmanuel, a French model living in New York City.

5. Emmanuel Alt, French Vogue's editor-in-chief;

Follow me on Twitter @oliviafortson, s'il vous plait

Friday, July 11, 2014

Common is so unique

One of the many things I love about my job is that I can be sitting here plugging away on a project and all of the sudden I get an email inviting me to meet someone famous that I'm intrigued by.

That happened twice this week. One is a top designer whose name I can't mention because she's coming for a special invitation-only event. Her assistants asked me to not blog or Tweet about it beforehand. I will be blogging about it after the fact, though, so if your curiosity is raised, check back soon and I'll have the full scoop. 

The other is the Grammy award-winning musician and actor Common. At 7 p.m. on Oct. 2, he'll be speaking at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture's second annual Gantt Symposium at Knight Theater sponsored by Wells Fargo. 

From what I'm told, Common is known as the King of Conscious Hip-Hop. He's recorded nine studio albums, currently plays freed slave Elam Ferguson in the AMC historical drama series "Hell on Wheels" and has appeared in several motion pictures including "American Gangster" opposite Denzel Washington and "Wanted" opposite Angelina Jolie.  Common is also an author and philanthropist. He's released several children's books, as well as his memoir "One Day It'll All Make Sense." And he's launched the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to the empowerment and development of America's urban youth.

Common didn't register on my radar until my husband got me watching the excellent "Hell On Wheels," which is coming back soon for a fourth season. 

I'm drawn to the character Common plays because I like his storyline and I think  he's a terrific actor. He's handsome, too. I had no idea he was also an acclaimed musician and author until later. (The photo above is of Common in character on the set of the TV show.)

According to the Gantt Center, Common will talk about his journey from childhood to today and share defining moments that influenced the discovery of his voice, which he considers his tool for achieving professional success and creating social change. From Michael Jackson to Emmitt Till, he'll trace major influences on his path to discovering greatness with the hope of inspiring others.

In a statement, Gantt Center president and CEO David Taylor said, "Common's talk on greatness supports the Center's goal to mark our 40th anniversary by celebrating artists who use their work to create social change."

Tickets are $15 for members, $20 for nonmembers and $10 for students and are available at

If you're not a member of the center, this would be a great excuse to join. The center hosts a lot of interesting exhibits and events, and as a member you get special notifications, invitations and discounts. Plus, the center is in a major membership drive now. Duke Energy Foundation says it will donate $100,000 if the Center increases its membership rolls in the next year from about 700 people to 1,974 – a target pegged to the 1974 founding of the museum as the Afro-American Cultural Center.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Look For Less: Dior Fine Jewelry Ring

I can rarely afford the many beautiful designer clothing and accessories that make my heart beat a little faster, so I've become a master at finding the looks I love for less.

I have a fashion inspiration board at home where I pull images that inspire me, then I try to find a similar version that works for my budget. When I'm out and about, I love seeing people who can afford to buy some of the clothing and accessories I can only dream about. One of my mottos is "Don't hate, congratulate!" You should always buy the best quality you can afford.

But I'm also a firm believer that no matter what item you love, there's always a look for less. Never, ever spend money you don't have. Nothing is worth that.

If you have an outfit or item you're inspired by, but can't afford, send me a photo and I or one of my sources will try to find you the look for less (email me at

Here's an example of one of my recent The Look For Less success stories:

Months ago I saw this feature in a magazine where genius jewelry designer Victoire de Castellane of Dior Fine Jewelry mentioned her favorite adornments that make her feel inspired. Victoire chose this rainbow hued ring of multicolored gems surrounding a pear shaped diamond. I tried to track down the price, but couldn't confirm it, although I was told it could range anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 or above. That was never, ever going to happen for me. But I knew I could find The Look For Less. It might not have a diamond in it, but I still felt confident that one would cross my path.

Any time I was out shopping, the image of the ring was on my mind and I would browse around hoping to find something similar. It finally happened this week when I was walking through Belk's Fine Jewelry department at SouthPark mall.

I spotted this round multicolored gemstone ring. It's not pear-shaped but that was alright because anything circular has a special meaning for me. Plus, I'm not a huge diamond fan. I actually liked it better because it didn't have a big diamond in the center. Some people would completely disagree with me about the diamond, but the point of The Look For Less is finding something that expresses your personal style without putting you in debt.

The Belk ring was originally $350, which I wasn't willing to spend. But it turned out it was on sale and with tax cost me $150. Thanks to a couple of Belk gift cards I received for my recent birthday, it became mine.

I think it will look great with anything and can be worn with casual attire or more dressy clothes, although I'm most excited to wear it to my next cocktail party because it looks like a party ring.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, July 7, 2014

Allegro Foundation honors Felix Sabates

The Allegro Foundation is a wonderful Charlotte nonprofit that helps children with disabilities. Its signature annual gala fundraiser is the Ambassador's Ball held every January. Since it originated five years ago, the ball is a chance to meet a foreign ambassador to the U.S. while mingling with leaders in Charlotte's business, political and philanthropy circles.

Since it's inception, the ball has been held at Felix Sabates Mercedes Benz of South Charlotte dealership. Felix Sabates is a strong supporter of the Allegro Foundation and his donation of a venue when the annual gala began was a huge boost. Now the event has become so big, it's moving to Quail Hollow for the sixth gala on Jan. 10, 2015. 

The photo above is of Felix at the 2012 gala with three of his favorite ladies: Kim LeCompte (from left), Mimi Sabates and Allegro Foundation founder and president Pat Farmer. 

The foundation plans to honor Felix at the 2015 ball for his ongoing generosity. The other special guest will be an ambassador, of course. (Although it hasn't been confirmed yet, I hear it's going to be the Ambassador from Canada.)

The Ambassadors who visit Charlotte can't help but develop a special love for the children the foundation helps and they leave with a commitment to continuing the ties they formed on their visit.

For example, when Ambassador of Monaco Gilles Nogh├Ęs was the special guest several years ago, he went home and helped establish a lasting friendship between the foundation and Monaco. On July 16, the internationally acclaimed all male choir “Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco” has been commissioned by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco to perform at St. Gabriel Catholic Church at 7 p.m. for a free concert that's hosted by the foundation. The church is at 3016 Providence Road. 

Below are some pictures from the 2014 ball. If you're interested in attending the 2015 gala, contact Stephen Davis at the foundation, 704-412-5229. For more details about the foundation, go to

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Favorite Things: Fourth of July at Party City

Occasionally on my blog, I'll be visiting stores and picking out some of my favorite things.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I went by one of my favorite sources, Party City. Even the most elegant of event planners knows that if you want to declare your independence from dull decorations and add some fun touches to your soiree, a shopping trip to Party City is a must. 

If you want to add some extra sparkle to your July Fourth festivities, here are 10 of my favorite things at Party City. And you can't beat the store's prices - you really get a lot of bang for your buck. Added bonus: Party City stores will be open on July Fourth from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Red, white and blue lantern light set, $12.99

Red polka dot baking cups, $1.99 (Along with baked goods, these can also be used as a drink guard to keep pesky critters away. Just punch a whole in the bottom for a straw and turn it upside down to cover your drink.)

Classic red and white stripe paper drink straws ($4.99 for a package of 144 straws)

Uncle Sam hat, $1.99 (Fun for the host to wear, or have these patriotic toppers scattered around for guests to try on.)

American flag sunglasses (some styles light up), $5.99 (Fun to wear when you make your entrance, or hosts can have them sitting out for guests to wear.)

Red gingham plates and napkins in a variety of sizes

Americana square plates in different sizes

Jumbo roll of royal blue striped wrapping paper, $3.99 (Use this a runner for your table.Also comes in red and white stripe.)

Package of white balloons, $2.99 (I haven't tried this yet, but I'm told that you can buy inexpensive LED tea lights at Party City, turn them on, then place one in each balloon before blowing it up for a beautiful glow at during an evening party.)

And best for last...a tiny top hat for your pet! My dog celebrates her freedom by immediately shaking off her tiny Uncle Sam hat that cost 99-cents, but hey, one photo is all you need!)

I hope you all have a safe and fun July Fourth holiday!

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

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