Front Row Report, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund: Reese Witherspoon Remembers Oscar de la Renta

The 'Wild' actress was joined by a well-dressed crowd that included Hailee Steinfeld, Camilla Belle and Dakota Johnson at the Chateau Marmont

On Tuesday afternoon, the garden at the Chateau Marmont was set up as a rectangular runway, with chairs lining all sides of the area. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund's top finalists were backstage, as a crowd gathered for their group show that included Vogue's current cover girl Reese Witherspoon, Dakota Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld and Jaime King, to name a few of the stylish stars in attendance. The Hollywood set was also accompanied by Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa, J. Crew's Jenna Lyons, L.A. based designers Monique Lhuillier, Juan Carlos Obando, Irene Neuwirth, Jennifer Meyer, Gregory Parkinson, Rodarte's Kate and Laura Mulleavy and Andrea Lieberman of A.L.C., who all arrived in their best ensembles (florals, whites and cut-outs) for a summer-like day in fall.

There are well-dressed folks in L.A. — New York can't take that away from us — but this crowd may just take the prize: Witherspoon paid homage to Oscar de la Renta in a cream fit 'n' flare bedecker with blue flowers; Glee's Dianna Agron in a purple lace two-piece Libertine look, Michelle Monaghan in a Suno floral and checker dress; Camilla Belle in a stunning violet iridescent drop waist dress from Monique Lhuillier's spring 2015 collection; and model Miranda Kerr in a two-piece Pucci jacket and pants, both in black with gold flocking and embellishment.

Neiman Marcus's Ken Downing, one of the judges of the competition (a winner and two runners up will be named at a dinner in New York in early November) said, "I've been traveling with these kids for several months now. We all love the annual event in L.A., because it's more relaxed, and they get a chance to sit back and see their clothes or accessories styled byVogue — it's a very different experience than they're used to. And it starts on time — even if Anna Wintour isn't here!"

CFDA President Diane von Furstenburg welcomed the crowd, talking about how much she loved L.A., then quickly switched to eulogizing the late Oscar de la Renta, as he was very much on the minds of this fashion crowd, especially with Witherspoon in his dress, as well as Gelila Puck (in a green Oscar dress). "He loved life," the designer proclaimed, "And today, Oscar would not want us to be sad."

Witherspoon enjoyed the event, but also was mourning de la Renta, whom she's worn in the past. "I met Oscar a few times. He was such a gentleman. Every time I wore one of his dresses I felt so special and beautiful," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "The structure in them was so impressive, inside and out. And structure is so important to a beautiful dress. I also love that he dressed women so well of all sizes."

Lhuillier also kept the late designer in her thoughts, adding: "He had no boundaries as a designer. His legacy is forever. He was one of the most talented designers in the world. His life is an inspiration, you can see his passion for life in those clothes. He made women beautiful, always."

The Fashion Fund — 11 years since its establishment — can really broaden the reach of any emerging designer, just by participating in this show, let alone winning. This year's 10 finalists included Brett Heyman of Edie Parker (whose hard clutch boxes were worn by Dianne Agron and others, and have been seen regularly on the red carpet); Eva Zuckerman of Eva Fehren jewelry, Gigi Burris of Gigi Burris Millinery; Natalie Levy and Grant Krajecki of Grey Ant eyewear, Matthew Orley of Orley men's preppy clothes; shoe designer Paul Andrew; knit clothing creator Ryan RocheDaniel Corrigan and Jake Sargent of Simon Miller knit clothing; Tanya Taylor ready-to-wear clothes and Wes Gordon menswear, which have already graced carpets for years. Each designer showcased their pieces and were then picked up by the models and escorted out of the garden. It was a brisk but very well-curated show, with lots of claps and "ooh's" and "ahhh's."




Lyons — in a white shirt, black pants and her signature glasses — was also a judge this year. "This show is one of my favorites," she proclaimed. "For these designers to see their clothes styled by Lauren at Vogue, it takes it to another level for them. You can see the thrill on their faces."

After the show ended, guests were invited to stay in the garden and it seemed as if no one wanted to leave as they enjoyed champagne, smoked salmon, baby potatoes and caviar, and slices of pizza for several hours. Who knows what was more attractive — the food, the drinks, or just watching this crowd waft by in all its sartorial splendor.