For 34 years, Rosemary Brantley has presided over the Otis College of Art and Design annual scholarship benefit and fashion show. The first year the event was held it was a small party at the Hard Rock Café, where models stood on the tables.
At the most recent event, on May 7, 750 guests gathered in the Beverly Hilton ballroom in Beverly Hills to celebrate the work of Otis juniors and seniors under the direction of Brantley, who is retiring from her position as founding chair of Otis’ Fashion Design program.
Bruce W. Ferguson, president of Otis College of Art and Design, welcomed the crowd—“Hello, you beautiful people”—before snapping a selfie with the guests to send to his mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.
Ferguson said he was looking forward to this fall, when the fashion design students join the rest of the Otis students at the school’s newly expanded campus in Los Angeles’ Westchester neighborhood.
College Magazine recently ranked Otis’ Fashion Design program as first in the nation and The Economist ranked Otis College sixth in the nation for “added value to a student’s potential income,” said MGM Studios executive Shelley Reid, who served as benefit cochair with Cathy Louchheim.
“Many of these achievements would not have happened if not for your support,” Reid said.
The evening also honored Los Angeles designer Jenni Kayne with the Style Icon award and Los Angeles label Joie with the Design Innovation award.
“My mom, who’s here tonight, used to bring me to this event as a little girl,” Kayne said. The designer is an Otis alumna, as is her head of design, Laurie Deakers. “Otis has been essential to building my brand,” Kayne said.
Similarly, Joie Vice President of Design Rachel Wilder-Hill, who accepted the Design Innovation award on behalf of the contemporary brand, said, “More than half of my design team are graduates of Otis.”
The task of honoring Brantley fell to a group of Fashion Design program alumni, including swimwear designer Rod Beattie, J Brand designer Angela Furlong, Joie designer Azadeh “Ozz” Nooryani, Barbie Entertainment art director Renata Marchand, Maxstudio designer Ame Austen Max, interior designer Kenn Gray, and M.I. Five designer and product developer Arthur Alexander Thammavong.
Beattie described Brantley as his “design mother” and “my biggest supporter.”
Designer Bob Mackie has been a mentor to Otis students since the very beginning, recalling when he got a call from an unknown but “very energetic woman”—Brantley—asking if he would mentor Otis fashion design students.
“On the first day I fell in love with this amazing force of nature,” he said.
Mackie also urged the crowd to contribute to a new scholarship, the Rosemary Brantley Endowed Scholarship Fund. “It’s not for Rose to come back to school,” the designer quipped.
When Brantley took the stage—in a dramatic floor-length tailored white shirt—she compared her job at Otis to being the “leader of a creative orchestra.”
“It’s been an indescribable joy working with these very creative people,” she said. “The pleasure has been all mine.”
Brantley then introduced a runway presentation featuring more than 120 designs created by Otis juniors and seniors under the direction of several mentors, including Mackie and Todd Oldham, as well as designers from Uniqlo, Prairie Underground, Joie, Nanette Lepore, Lucky Brand, Amuse Society, Blu Pony Vintage, Michi, Perry Ellis and J Brand.
The students working with Oldham created a collection of stylish and functional clothing to wear while commuting by bicycle in Los Angeles. The project was part of a partnership between Otis and Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Los Angeles.