Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Aging with Style and Helping People Along the Way: Joy Venturini Bianchi

"Have you made a difference in your own life?  And have you made a difference in someone else's life?" 
The inspirational Joy Bianchi

Bloomingdales San Francisco recently launched a Helpers House of Couture Pop-Up shop, allowing customers an opportunity to shop a legendary array of vintage clothing and accessories.  The launch event included couture from the private collection of fashion legend Joy Venturini Bianchi as well as a Q&A style session with both Joy and Advanced Style photographer/blogger/author Ari Seth Cohen.  Cohen also signed copies of his latest book.

Here's what The San Francisco Chronicle said about the event:

With the current hold by hipster Millennials on San Francico's style scene, the multi-aged spectacle at Bloomingdales was a refreshing reminder that self-expression can be charmingly eccentric.

I agree.  Joy exemplifies so many of the things I love about fashion: self-expression, ageless style, sustainability through repurposing vintage clothing, choosing items you love rather than obeying trends, using the power of fashion to raise money for (and awareness of) charitable causes.  This is not vapid narcissism or youth obsession.  This is not throwaway culture or exploitation or cult of personality or any of the other dark sides of fashion.

 This is lifelong style, with a passion for using beautiful design to not only adorn yourself but make the world more beautiful.

But do-gooder vibes aside, Joy's Helpers House of Couture on Fulton Street is a fashion lovers' dream.  You can browse an overflowing plethora of gorgeous things from every designer imaginable.  There is plenty of Alexander McQueen, Halston, Chanel, Dior, Pucci, Louis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta, but Joy has a particular love for Ralph Rucci.  (Joy feels he is the Balenciaga of today.)  There are also a lot of pieces from lesser-known designers, and all are thoughtfully curated by Joy.

 The buildings that contain all of this gorgeous clothing were once part of a charitable home for people with developmental disabilities.  From the 1960s until 2002, 12 men and women lived there with the help of a live-in staff.  Joy once spearheaded a project where residents made handmade stuffed mice wearing designer outfits.  You can read more about the history of Helpers and Joy's decades-long charitable involvement right here and here.

Helpers House of Couture is now an appointment only destination for great couture finds.  Prices range from $10 to $10,000, with proceeds going toward helping those with developmental disabilities.  Although Joy says getting an appointment is easy, you can also check out the shopping at Helpers Bazaar in Ghiradelli Square.  Joy is often on site, ringing up sales and offering expert advice.  I've been told there are numerous treasures to be found there -- including Hermes coats for less than $200.  SWOON!

If you're in the San Francisco area, call (410) 387-3031 for an appointment.

You can also find Helpers House of Couture at 1st Dibs here.

Follow Helpers on Instagram.

I highly recommend both of Ari Seth Cohen's books on style and aging.  The ladies in these pages are not going gently into the good night.  They are making the good night into a great after-hours party.

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