On Tuesday, April 14, the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel will be transformed into opulence as more than 500 well-heeled New Orleanians gather for the prestigious Prix d’Elegance Awards Luncheon. Sponsored by the Men and Women of Fashion, and co-chaired by Teresa Guzzetta and Jacquee Carvin, the event will honor 10 men and 10 women who have been selected for their personal style, their savvy fashion sense and their dedication to the New Orleans community. Additionally, two honorees, one man and one woman, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Members and honorees alike will enjoy an afternoon of excellent food and high fashion, including a spectacular style show presented by Mimi and Jeff’s Haberdashery, and a silent auction with more than 60 items donated from across the region.
    For 37 years, the Men of Fashion and Women of Fashion have paid tribute to dozens of men and women in New Orleans who exemplify unique personal style as well as excellence through business, civic and charitable endeavors that specifically better the community in which they live. As Women of Fashion president Kathleen Mix says, “It is our honor and privilege to recognize men and women not only of fashion and style, but also of substance, of integrity and of community involvement. All have impressive resumes noting the many ways in which they make an impact and truly make a difference in the New Orleans area.”
    “This is a dress-up city,” says Teresa Guzzetta, who in her co-chair role exemplifies the way the Men and Women of Fashion serve as a kind of intersection of fashion, business and philanthropy. “New Orleans offers a huge selection of boutiques where people can acquire their own unique style.” Indeed the retail industry gets a big nod from the organizations and the event. A professional photo shoot at the Ritz-Carlton highlights local luminaries. The runway fashion show is sponsored by Mimi and Jeff’s Haberdashery, and the auction features items from artists, jewelers, florists, fashion boutiques, spas, restaurants and more.
    Proceeds from the event will go to the New Orleans Ballet Association and BRAVO, the Ballet Resource and Volunteer Organization. Over the past four years the two organizations have developed a close relationship as they both strive to strengthen the greater New Orleans community and its creative industries. Jenny Hamilton, executive director of the New Orleans Ballet Association points out that, “Like BRAVO, the Men and Women of Fashion organizations are comprised of leaders who generously donate their time, expertise and financial resources to better our community.” By supporting the BRAVO program, the event helps provide more than 2,500 performances, dance classes and activities, more than 90 percent of which are free, to anyone ages 6 to 80. NOBA’s education programs now operate in 10 sites across the greater New Orleans area, and each year talented students audition and are accepted to prestigious summer schools around the country, including Houston Ballet, American Dance Festival, LINES Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem, among others. Proceeds from this luncheon help these youth gain intensive training opportunities outside of the city, which can be instrumental to their growth as young artists. “We believe in the power of the arts to make a difference in lives,” says Hamilton. “Donations like these are critical to supporting our mission to make dance accessible to everyone in the community.”
    Co-chairs Guzzetta and Carvin agree, calling the relationship an unqualified success. Over the past five years they estimate that the Men and Women of Fashion have contributed more than $100,000 to NOBA and BRAVO, helping the program expand its services in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans to provide counseling and basic health and nutrition information. Carvin explains, “This is one of the only cultural organizations in New Orleans that works so hands-on with children.” She adds that she hopes to see the relationship between the Men and Women of Fashion and the New Orleans Ballet Association continue to flourish in the future. “It’s a very special goal to me,” she says. “I do hope it continues for many years.”
    Photographs of the 2009 recipients were taken at the Ritz-Carlton. “When Men and Women of Fashion called, it seemed like the perfect location for the photo shoot,” says Char Schroeder of the Ritz-Carlton. “The hotel is housed within the historic Maison Blanche department store building, and Canal Street was known as the best place in the city to shop when Maison Blanche was the epicenter.” The elegant Ritz-Carlton Suite, overlooking the Central Business District, Canal Street and the Vieux Carré, made an ideal backdrop for the occasion. The hotel is known for its support of New Orleans arts and culture, with an extensive art and antiques collection and one of the most stylish music venues in the city, where Jeremy Davenport headlines regularly. “We have always wanted to host this event and felt extremely fortunate to be selected as the location,” Schroeder says.
    Organizers and honorees agree that the venue was well chosen, and that the event continues to be a gem in the world of New Orleans fashion and society. When talking about the role of fashion in New Orleans, particularly in lean economic times, Kathleen Mix offers a favorite quote from Coco Chanel: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” With their unique styles and their dedication to philanthropy and the New Orleans community, the Men and Women of Fashion continue to showcase their commitment to both haute couture and high ideals.