UK-based fashion designer Erdem Moralioğlu, whose designs Vogue has called “extraordinary,” is in the midst of a whirlwind visit to Washington. On Tuesday, at a lavish charity runway show luncheon to show his latest looks, the designer was too busy to eat. So how does a hungry designer fill up? “I went to Ben’s Chili Bowl,” he said. “I had a lemonade and a hot dog with chili . . . but I only ate half.” He said he and his business partner took the table where former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, sat in 2010. Maybe that table should be designated as Ben’s haute-couture table.
Dinner was a small gathering in Moralioğlu’s honor hosted by Elise and Marc Lefkowitz at their Kalaroma townhouse, where Erdem talked about his Washington visit, his first since he was a young child. He was pleased that he had been driven by the White House and saw the Capitol dome from a distance. After an appearance at Saks on Wednesday, he hopes to fit in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and maybe the Phillips, before catching an evening flight back to London.
To judge from the crowd at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel luncheon, Erdem is a label popular with DC women. (The designer has dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, he says, “but a while back.”) He says the designs he showed Tuesday weren’t catered specifically to Washington’s conservative fashion tastes but were rather pieces from his fall collection and items available at Saks. (The label is also available at Nieman-Marcus and Hu’s Wear in Georgetown.)
The Erdem runway extravaganza was the featured attraction of the fourth annual Great Ladies Luncheon and Fashion Show, which benefits the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. The creation of Elise Lefkowitz, who lost her mother, Estelle Gelman, to Alzheimer’s, the group has raised $65 million in the past four years for research. Leftkowitz’s ally in the cause is Leonard Lauder, the ADDF’s co-chairman and the chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder.
The dinner party was cozy and fun, with waiters in white dinner jackets passing Veuve Clicquot and tuna tartare and caviar canapés by Design Cuisine, which also created the sumptuous buffet, including vegetarian options—Bill Homan, a co-owner of Design Cuisine and a vegan, made a rare appearance as a guest at the dinner. Guests sat at tables, on sofas, and even on the floor as they ate.
Dessert was chocolate followed by more chocolate, as Elise is a confessed chocoholic. After the plated dessert, she passed sweets from a favorite chocolatier in Florida, where she makes regular forays during the winter.
This year’s event honored Pat Summit, former head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball team, who made her Alzheimer’s diagnosis public in 2011.