Plaza Hotel, New York—The crowds were thick around the designer handbag tables at the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s 5th Annual NY Bag Ladies Luncheon and Silent Auction. But women were doing more than admiring the more than 150 donated handbags from 50 top designers; they were vigilantly guarding their bids!
Women vyed for vintage Guccis and Pradas, new Kors and Minkoffs, and seemingly every other brand in the handbag industry, and the cause was a good one—the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation.
Keynote speaker Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt Group, charmed with her inspirational story of building her company. Tying in the fundraiser with a fashion classification seemed particularly “fitting” as the devastating autoimmune disease primarily affects women.
All in all, the event exceeded its monetary expectations, and most women got a feel-good keepsake in the form of a coveted handbag (not to mention a signed hardcover copy of “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt”).
Keeping with the handbag theme, sponsors could contribute on very fashionable levels (Satchel, $15,000; Tote, $10,000; Hobo, $5,000; Cluch, $3,500). During lunch, women could also donate money to the cause by sending a text message introducing themselves and their pledges. This info was posted in real time on the monitor screen, encourage some playful one-upmanship.
Luncheon guests included S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Founder and Vice President Susan Golick and Board members Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, wife of Senator Frank Lautenberg; Jennie DeScherer; Betsey Selkowitz; Carol Weisman; and Kate Kelly. Fashion luminaries included Danielle DiFernando, founder of Danielle Nicole Handbags and Mary Belle, president, licensing at The Jones Group which includes iconic lifestyle brands such as Anne Klein, Jones New York and Nine West. A first-time attendee of special note was long-time champion for women’s causes, Gloria Steinem.
Honorary co-chairs were Matilda Raffa Cuomo, former first lady of New York State, founder and chair of Mentoring USA and opera legend Jessye Norman. Other speakers were S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Board member Jessye Norman, Deborah McKeever, CEO of EHE International, Jamie Peretz – lupus patient and volunteer, Jennie DeScherer, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Board member and Margaret Dowd, Executive Director.
“We thank everyone here today and every designer who generously donated handbags holding so much promise for lupus patients,” said Margaret Dowd, executive director, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. “The funds raised here today turn on the lights of laboratories throughout the country and allow our finest scientists to deliver the breakthrough discoveries that will deliver a Life Without Lupus. So much progress has already been made as we are closing in on the cause and going for the cure.”