San Francisco Social Diary: Opera Guild Fashion Night and a Hilton Birthday

During San Francisco’s spring social season, I enjoyed an Erdem fashion show held at the new San Francisco Cruise Terminal, and attended a glamorous dinner party with friends that showed off the city’s Old World charm.

My New York friends are always asking what goes on in San Francisco. Plenty! There are meet-ups with friends, lots of parties, and so much live entertainment it’s hard to make a choice. Here’s a report on some of the events I enjoyed on my last trip.


This spring, droves of San Francisco fashionistas gussied up to view the latest collection from celebrated British designer Erdem Moralioglu at his first-ever runway presentation here.

Saks Fifth Avenue sponsored the event, co-chaired by Claire Fluhr and Anne Marie Massocca under the leadership of new Guild President Charlot Malin. It benefited the San Francisco Opera Guild’s music education programs, which reach more than 50,000 students in nearly 200 schools throughout Northern California.

Fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu with Opera Guild President Charlot Malin.

Opera Guild co-chairs Anne Marie Massocca and Claire Fluhr, with Opera Director David Gockley.

Huifen Chan with Saks GM Robert Arnold-Kraft, who sponsored the evening.


Since Erdem Moralioglu’s last name is a pronunciation challenge, he brands himself simply as Erdem. A Canadian of British and Turkish parentage, he trained at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London and launched his label there in 2005. His many honors include Womenswear Designer of the Year (2014) from the British Fashion Council and Designer of the Year at Elle Style Awards (2015).

Erdem is best known for his boldly rendered floral designs in classic silhouettes.

Anna Wintour, Keira Knightly, Kate Middleton, and First Lady Michelle Obama are among Erdem’s celebrity fans.


The venue for the Erdem show was the new San Francisco Cruise Terminal at Pier 27, located on the Embarcadero waterfront. Many in the fashion-conscious crowd were eagerly making their first visit to the Terminal, which was built when Piers 27 and 29 were renovated for the 2013 America’s Cup. The LEED silver-certified terminal boasts a 2.5-acre lawn.

The sleek interior of the new cruise terminal easily transforms from port of call to event space.

San Francisco’s skyline, as seen from the terminal.

During the lively cocktail hour, guests enjoyed appetizers and sipped specialty drinks while enjoying the views of the Bay and the downtown skyline.


Celebrating the arrival of spring, many in the mostly female crowd wore Erdem’s signature, English-influenced flowery prints (the English do love their gardens!). I can’t recall seeing seen so much vibrant color in one room.

Though San Franciscans usually dress casually, when the occasion demands glamour and panache—and this night certainly did—the social set can rise to the challenge and compete for stylishness with any city in the world.

2015 Opera Ball co-chair Jane Mudge, Saks Fifth Avenue GM Robert Arnold-Kraft, and 2015 Opera Ball co-chair Karen Kubin.

Opera Guild member Arlene Inch, Jeanne Lawrence, and Guild members Mary Poland and Nafiseh Lindberg.

Local fashion designer Karen Caldwell, Anette Harris, and Opera Guild member Anne Marie Massocca.

Rada Brooks, Adrienne Mally, and Daru Kawalkowski.

Jacqueline Erdman and Robert Fountain.

Brenda Zarate, Director of the Christian Dior Couture San Francisco Boutique, with Carolyn Chandler.

Dave Dollinger, Teresa Medearis, Courtney Labe, and Jim Labe.

Barbara Brown and Saks GM Robert Arnold-Kraft.

Morgan and Danielle Malott.

Monica Zent and Sonia Soo Seem.

Opera Guild members Cynthia Schreuder, Marilyn Cabak, Theodore Brown, Ellie Brown, and Sandra Farris.

Event designer Riccardo Benavides and Paula LeDuc, caterer of the evening.

Former SF Mayor Willie Brown with Sonya Molodetskaya.

Lora Peterson, Katherine Simon, and Libby Ornani.

Jane Mudge and Komal Shah.

Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah.

Connie Nielsen and Vanessa Getty.

Courtney Labe and Deepa Pakianathan.

Tracy Falconer, Courtney Murphy, and Kelly Anderson.


The show highlighted Erdem’s autumn/winter 2015 collection. He is celebrated for his detailed craftsmanship, unusual fabrics, and bold prints.

Stephanie Marver, Saks GM Robert Arnold-Kraft, and Nancy Kukacka.

Lora DuBain and Sobia Shaikh.

Opera Guild members Judith and John Renard.

Sarah Somberg, Cierra Sherwin, Sonya Molodetskaya, Willie Brown, and Stephen Massocca.

Backstage with Mary Beth Shimmon and Riccardo Benavides.

Models prepared to strut the runway.

Erdem’s breathtaking designs are noteworthy for the sensuous and luxurious fabrics he uses. I thought his collection was particularly wearable in San Francisco, especially the evening coats—ideal protection on cool foggy nights, but fanciful enough for a black-tie occasion.

A live auction and a very private cocktail hour followed, underwritten by Guild member Arlene Inch for ticketholders at the “Couture” level and up. They had a chance to meet the charming and accessible Erdem. When I left, the room was still buzzing with lively conversations about fashion (and plans to hit the stores to buy more Erdem frocks!)


Elisa Stephens, husband Ed Conlon, and friend Alan Malouf recently attended socialite Nicky Hilton’s lavish wedding in London. The last time the trio had been together in San Francisco was as hosts of a birthday fete for Nicky’s mother Kathy Hilton.

The elegant private dinner party took place on top of Nob Hill, one of the seven most famous hills of San Francisco. The evening proved that San Francisco’s reputation as a city of elegance and old world tradition still stands, thanks in part to those who cherish small, refined gatherings and keep the standards high.

View of San Francisco from the heights of Nob Hill, one of the seven hills of the city.

Elisa and Ed hosted at their Beaux Arts-style home. Built in 1913 and known as the “Jewel Box of Nob Hill,” it’s one of the few remaining private homes on Nob Hill.

Elisa and Alan have been friends since they met as children in Hillsborough, the upscale community 20 minutes south of San Francisco.

Both have since decamped to San Francisco. Elisa, a lawyer, has been president of the Academy of Art University since 1992 and is the third generation of Stephens to operate the university, founded in 1929.

Rick Hilton, Kathy Hilton, Ed Conlon, and hosts Elisa Stephens and Alan Malouf.

Guests gathered for drinks in the elegant Nob Hill drawing room.

Masses of beautiful spring flowers were placed throughout the house.


Who doesn’t know of the Hiltons? Kathy is married to Rick Hilton, son of Barron Hilton and grandson of Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, and their daughters are celebrity socialites Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton.

Alan and the Hiltons met through mutual friends and really hit it off. Although the couple is based in Los Angeles and enjoy frequent jaunts to their New York pied-a-terre, they are often guests in Alan’s box at the SF Opera openings.

Alan Malouf, Kathy Hilton, Karen Sutherland, and Rick Hilton at the 2012 SF Opera opening gala.

The Hiltons flew up last year for their daughter Nicky’s book launch, hosted by Alan along with Isha and Asim Abdulla at their penthouse, which happily for them has since been sold, but sadly for their friends who have enjoyed many happy times there.

Kathy’s birthday provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate in San Francisco and partake of some the city’s superb sightseeing and gourmet dining experiences.

Kathy Hilton, Nicky Hilton, Richard Hilton, Elisabeth Thieriot, and Peter Lago at Nicky’s 2014 book party at the home of Isha and Asim Abdulla.


A planeload of friends flew into town to celebrate. The evening was pure old-world elegance in a beautiful, antique-filled home.

Birthday honoree Kathy Hilton and host Alan Malouf.

Alison Spear and host Elisa Stephens.

Guests enjoyed plentiful hors d’oeuvre.

LA’s Lauren King and Maria Manetti Shrem.

Jan Shrem, Jim Ward, and Carol Atkeson, Alan’s sister.

Maria Manetti Shrem, Alison Spear, and Lauren King.

Alan Malouf and Richard King, who flew in from Los Angeles.

Rick Hilton and Maria Manetti Shrem.


When we walked downstairs to the dining room, we were greeted with a long table topped with soft candlelight and a profusion of flowers. We were intrigued when we passed the fantasy nightclub-style bar, as it looked like such a fun party room.

Dinner was prepared by award-winning Chef Gary Danko. It takes months to snare a reservation at his eponymous restaurant, which has been going strong for sixteen years. Accompanying him was Greg Lopez, who oversaw the entire evening and made sure it all ran smoothly.

Chef Gary Danko, who in 2013 was nominated as Outstanding Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

Greg Lopez, Director of Service at Gary Danko restaurant.

The menu featured Dungeness crab salad, steamed bass, and filet of beef, followed by a cheese course and, naturally, birthday cake.

Greg Lopez and Alan Malouf.

Hostess Elisa Stephens welcomed her guests to the birthday dinner.

Kathy and Rick Hilton.

Rick Hilton and Jeanne Lawrence.

Kathy Hilton was surprised with a lemon soufflé birthday cake.

Kathy played along and blew out her birthday candles with gusto.

Following the Old World custom, after dinner the men retired to enjoy cigars and a drink.

Every aspect of the evening was memorable. When this group entertains, they do it right.  I’m hoping Kathy has left her heart in San Francisco and will want to celebrate another birthday in the “City By the Bay.”


Photographs by Drew Altizer and Jeanne Lawrence.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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