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The Art of Fashion Committee makes the final preparations for the 60th annual event hosted by The Country Friends. Photo by Jody Pinchin Photography
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Anticipated Art of Fashion 2015 applies finishing touches

RANCHO SANTA FE — The much-anticipated 60th annual Art of Fashion hosted by The Country Friends is approaching quickly. Its historical backdrop venue, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, will be the fashionista hub Sept. 17.

For this special milestone year, The Country Friends unanimously decided that its special theme would be a tribute to Sally B. Thornton who was a life member of the nonprofit since 1970.

Donna Ahlstrom, event manager at The Country Friends, shared that in the early years, Thornton hosted an “Art of Fashion” runway show and luncheon at Mille Fleurs. A savvy businesswoman and who was one of the owners of Thornton Winery in Temecula, was regarded for her philanthropic efforts.

Last year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer declared April 12, 2014 as “Sally B. Thornton Day.” This proclamation recognized and celebrated her volunteerism and humanitarian achievements.

Celebrating Thornton’s life at the 60th annual Art of Fashion will be a heartfelt day.

Chairing the event this year is Pat O’Connor. She has played a huge role in the San Diego fashion industry since 1969. O’Connor is the founder of Fashion Careers College which was established in 1979. She has also chaired numerous fashion events for charity.

“I look forward to working with such an admirable charity, The Country Friends,” O’Connor said.

The Country Friends supports more than 35 human care agencies in San Diego County. Proceeds from the Art of Fashion will be filtered back to these agencies.

According to Ahlstrom, she believes the ongoing popularity of the event is attributed to teaming up with South Coast Plaza.

“This is the largest outdoor fashion show on the West Coast,” she said. “And we are expecting 400 guests.”

Something new to the venue is the “Avant Affair.” When guests arrive, they will be directed to the lower lawn area of The Inn. While there, they can sip champagne, enjoy petite sweet savories, and buy tickets for opportunity drawings for wins such as a Maui getaway, Oscar de la Renta gift certificate, John Matty Amethyst Pendant, Sycuan golf package and more.

A boutique retail area will also be available for those must-have items.

Ahlstrom said the runway fashion show will begin at 11:30 a.m. Attendees will see the latest fashions from Barbara Bui, Donna Karan, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, M Missoni, Max Mara, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, Salvatore Ferragamo and Versace.

Following the show, guests will be escorted to “Luncheon on the Lawn.”

Another anticipated segment of the Art of Fashion is the live auction series. This year, it will take place during the luncheon. A handful of auction items include The Grand Del Mar golf package, Rancho la Puerta, Four Seasons Costa Rica getaway, Calistoga Ranch Resort, and more.

“Every year we strive to give our guests the best experience by adding something new and different,” Ahlstrom said.

For more information about the 2015 Art of Fashion or to register, please log onto or call (858) 756-1192 at extension 4.