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Designer Trunk Shows bring clothing to women on the go


Katherine Wurzburg of Los Altos founded Designer Trunk Shows to help local women with a taste for individualized fashion.

How can a woman who loves clothing work one-on-one with a designer and buy pieces fitted to her exact body type, without investing in a Paris penthouse on the Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré?

Closer to home, and to the lifestyle of a busy local woman, is the world of trunk shows and direct clothing lines. Last Sunday women and designers gathered at the home of Katherine Wurzburg to sip wine and check out the newest fashion offerings in a private setting.

Wurzburg, a 24-year resident of Los Altos, founded Designer Trunk Shows to bring personal services to local women with a taste for individualized fashion. Wurzburg's trunk show events occur a few times a year and combine personal shopping, social fun and an art-show introduction to local clothing and jewelry designers.

"It's a different way to shop. Some clothes are similar to retail, some are really, really different," Wurzburg said. "You can't find a lot of these items at Nordstrom or Macy's. I really admire how a designer can take so many separate elements and make them into a necklace or a jacket. I look at them as artists as well as designers."

Wurzburg's events feature designer clothing and jewelry and often the designers themselves. By selling directly, the lines are offered at lower prices than they would be retail, and clients benefit from personal interaction.

"The clothing industry is huge," Wurzburg said. "What people don't know is that you can buy wonderful clothes through a person who knows you. For a lot of these designers, this is their passion. It's a personal relationship, which is why I think trunk shows are so popular."

At preview parties like the one on Sunday, women can browse the clothing and accessory lines in a casual social setting. Most of the designers were present to discuss their lines over drinks and hors d'oeuvres, and no sales occur during the event. Interested women can set up appointments to buy later.

"It's an unintimidating way to see new designers and new lines, and to see if the price point suits you," Wurzburg said. "You can get lost out there and spend a lot of money if you don't have direction; I know that I didn't always make wise purchases. We help plan, we talk to clients about their lifestyle, their budget.

"Women love clothes, and need clothes, but there's a lot of frustration for women, and for me as well, with designer clothing that doesn't fit their body type," she said. "We all have different body types, different figures, different weights. If you find a line you really like, they will knit the garment to exactly where you want it. When you're paying $700 or $800 for a jacket, it's worth a lot to know that it's going to fit right."

The Carlisle Collection knits every garment to an individual fit, as do designers such as Avocado Atelier and Martha Blanchfield's Little Black Dress. Jewelers also offer a personal level to their designs.

"I had some beautiful pieces of jewelry from my mother and grandmother that were in an outdated style, so I gave them to Lindy Lopez and she turned them into really fabulous contemporary pieces," Wurzburg said. "There's that personal one-on-one service when you work directly with the designer."

Designer Trunk Show's lines range from designers such as Carlisle Collection and Nina McLemore, with a department store price point, to designer Suncana A., who does custom work.

"Her jackets are one-of-a-kind pieces, wearable art," Wurzburg said. "It is my most expensive line - a jacket would be about $1,200."

Wurzburg previously worked in marketing and sought a less traditional career that could accommodate her busy schedule as a mother and volunteer.

Eight years ago she found her niche hosting trunk shows and acting as a high-end personal shopper. The industry behind such work is generally called image consulting. Wurzburg is now president of the Bay Area chapter of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI).

"It's a perfect business for a woman who has children and wants to be involved in their lives. The industry offers a lot of flexibility and you can set your own hours," Wurzburg said.

Image consulting often comes as a second or third career for men and women.

"We have people from every background imaginable, an attorney, a restaurant owner, school teachers," Wurzburg said. "The focus of AICI is to advance your professional skills. It's a fairly new organization founded here in San Francisco by a group of people in the industry. They felt there needed to be a professional organization with guidelines and educational standards."

Wurzburg compared the image consultant certification process to that of an interior designer and said education requirements and certification would grow the industry and strengthen its membership.

Wurzburg's passion for volunteer work found an outlet with AICI's philanthropic partner, Girls for a Change. The non-profit pairs professional women with urban middle- and high-school girls to work on projects for social change and innovation.

For more information about Designer Trunk Shows, call 949-3170.

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