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Suzanne Newman
Suzanne Newsman is president of The Country Friends. Courtesy photo
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Art of Fashion readies for luxe online auction experience

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Country Friends, headquartered in Rancho Santa Fe, faced the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic by postponing its 65th Annual Art of Fashion event in September 2020.

Committee members decided to debut the Art of Fashion Online Auction brimming with couture designers, sought-after getaways, and more. The luxe online auction is slated from Oct. 10 to 16 to raise funds to support San Diego County-based nonprofits.

Since its inception in 1954, The Country Friends has raised nearly $14 million to help human care agencies. In addition to its Consignment Shop in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, other ways they have raised money and support have been through special events.

Their most popular event, the Art of Fashion, was vital in helping the nonprofit reach its annual philanthropic goals.

The nonprofit is optimistic that its upcoming online auction in Oct. will help reach those goals.

Like previous years, the 2020 Art of Fashion Runway Show and Luncheon venue would have been at the historic Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. The day would have highlighted the event’s Presenting Sponsor, South Coast Plaza, with their ten resident boutiques with a fall/winter capsule runway show for hundreds of guests.

“The celebration will have to wait until 2021. Unfortunately, as with many other organizations, the pandemic has forced us to postpone our annual homage to fashion and philanthropy,” said Suzanne Newman, president of The Country Friends. “We have been fortunate to have South Coast Plaza as our Presenting Sponsor for the past 15 years, and in spite of our inability to hold even a modified live event, this year they are continuing to support our efforts to raise the funds much needed by our community through the donation of items from South Coast Plaza directly as well as items from several of our long term South Coast Plaza Boutique partners such as Oscar de la Renta, Max Mara, Stella McCartney, and Camilla Australia, for our online luxury auction.”

Amber Yoo
Amber Yoo, chair of the 2020 Art of Fashion event. Courtesy photo

Amber Yoo, the 2020 Art of Fashion Chair, shared how moving to a virtual event was a natural progression over the last six months. The committee came to terms with the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings.

“The safety of our patrons and volunteers is our highest priority, so we first planned for a socially distanced outdoor event that had limited seating and a number of special protocols to keep everyone safe. Our fundraising efforts are usually in person at the event, and so it was obvious to us that we needed to offer those virtually instead,” Yoo said. “When it became clear that it was a very real possibility that the fashion show may be canceled up to the actual day, we decided the best path forward for everyone involved was to officially call off the fashion show and instead put all of our energy and focus into the online auction.”

And that’s when the Art of Fashion Online Auction came to light. Yoo wants people to know that the auction focuses on high-end, luxury items such as a pair of sapphire and diamond earrings custom-designed for this event by Jacqui Grande Fine Gemstones.

Other auction item teasers Yoo shared were a private dining experience catered by celebrity chef, Yealang Smith, and a pair of first-class tickets on Alaska Airlines for a two-night stay at The Four Seasons Resort, Los Cabos at Costa Palmas.

Participants also have the opportunity to bid on staycation packages at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, and Grande Colonial Hotel.

The online auction roster underscores unique items.

Yoo echoed how South Coast Plaza has been a tremendous supporter throughout the entire planning experience.

“Despite all the uncertainty, South Coast Plaza was fully committed to producing a live fashion show. Even when we made the difficult decision to cancel the show, South Coast Plaza continued to support us by donating luxury fashions and accessories to our online auction,” she said. “These are items that you simply can’t find at other fundraisers, and it’s only because of our partnership with South Coast Plaza that we’re able to offer them.”

South Coast Plaza is also offering a $2,000 shopping spree as part of the auction experience.

Both Newman and Yoo want everyone to know that there is still time for companies to take part in this debut online auction event through either donation or sponsorship.

Title Sponsors for the Art of Fashion include longtime supporters of The Country Friends, Deb and Les Cross. Other major sponsors include Hoehn Jaguar Land Rover, Westin Carlsbad Resort & Spa, Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, Warren Family Foundation, SKY Facial Plastic Surgery, Inc., Duncan Wallace, Torrey Pines Bank, Scott Dunn Exceptional Travel, The Mirandon Foundation for Hope, Tamara Lafarga-Joseph and Roger Joseph, and Andrea Naversen Wait and Dwight Wait.

The pandemic has caused financial hardship to many, including nonprofits.

“To shut down the Art of Fashion at a time when these charities need us the most is heartbreaking. We need to come together as a community to help,” Yoo said.

For those interested in donations or sponsorships, contact The Country Friends at [email protected]. For community members wanting to take part in the Art of Fashion Online Auction from Oct. 10 to 16, please visit for more information.