Friday, May 30, 2008

San Francisco Couture Club Member: Danielle Steel

Clockwise Top Left: Steel seated next to fellow San Fransican and Couture client Denise Hale at the collections; in a polka-dot Dior couture gown by Ferre; For the launch of her new perfume she wore Christian Lacroix couture Fall 2006, pictured here with her daughter Victoria Traina; In Christian Lacroix couture Fall 2007; With Vivien Westwood, at the retrospective of her work held at San Fransico’s de Young Museum, in a satin coat from Christian Lacroix couture, Fall 2004.

Since launching a successful career as a romance novelist, spanning the good part of three decades, Danielle Steel’s name has appeared on everything from paperbacks, made-for-TV movies, and most recently a perfume. But with a reported net worth of $600-$800 million, Steel has managed to keep her personal life out of the public eye for the most part. This may explain why she is not generally known amongst her fans as a serious collector of haute couture and fine jewelry, which she has been acquiring since the 1980’s. Last July she reputedly purchased 300 pairs of Louboutins in Paris, while in town for the couture shows with her daughters Victoria and Vanessa.

The closets of her San Francisco mansion hold hundreds of pieces from her enviable couture collection, which includes vintage gowns by Balenciaga and Dior, as well as the latest showstoppers from the Chanel and Lacroix runways. For the launch of her new perfume she chose to wear a $25,000 black Christian Lacroix couture tunic handcrafted with miles of gold thread and beading, and finished with a shocking pink bow. "I once ordered a Dior couture skirt that arrived in a wooden crate so large it wouldn't fit through my front door," says the usually press-shy author.

Steel’s love of design and fashion is no coincidence, as she had originally planned on attending the Parsons School of Design, having considered a life in fashion before launching her writing career. She also counts several heavyweights in the fashion business amongst her close friends, such as Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue, who encouraged her to launch her own perfume.

Steel makes it a point to never miss a couture season, attending the shows in a stretch Mercedes-Benz with her daughters. She is especially faithful to designers whose work she greatly admires. When Oscar de la Renta took his final bow, after 10 years of designing couture at the house of Balmain, Steel stood up from her front seat and gave him a hug. At the time she said, "Without him I will go naked."

Today she is a loyal customer at Christian Lacroix and is frequently invited to private client-only dinners hosted by the designer and his directress Marie Martinez-Seznec. But some of the invitations she receives aren’t always from couture houses, but also from some of the jewelers along the place Place Vendôme. For couture week is also the time when the grand jewelry houses unveil their latest collections to clients, and only serious and regular (buying) customers are invited to such events.

During the last round of couture shows in Paris, Boucheron celebrated its 150th anniversary by treating its best clients to a gala evening of art, jewelry and food. After a private showing of the house's new multi-million dollar collection of baubles against a backdrop of contemporary art by the likes of Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Maurizio Cattelan, (culled from PPR owner Francois Pinault's collection), the guests were then whisked to the Petit Palais for dinner. Amongst those present were the Americans Susan Casden, Kassidy Choi Schagrin, Christine Suppes in Lacroix couture, Becca Cason Thrash in Dior and Suzanne Sapperstein. Across the room from them sat Danielle Steel with her daughters Samantha and Vanessa Traina.

But after years of being secretive about her passion for collecting jewelry, Steel decided to part with some of her pieces on April 16th, when she auctioned off a selection of her jewelry at Christie's, New York. Among the lot was a diamond-and-black-coral owl brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, which was estimated to go for $15,000 to $25,000, and a pair of sapphire and diamond Trumpet Flower ear clips by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.
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