By Pamela Price
Susan Stein and desert fashion are synonymous. But it wasn’t always that way. When Stein came to the desert in 2003, it was to distance herself from the fashion world, but that didn’t happen. Born Susan Levine, she was no stranger to the schmata trade.
“I grew up in the business, spent my weekends in New York, my father brought fabrics and I sewed; I adored clothes,” she says. “My grandfather was a haberdasher in upstate New York, so I was a third generation in the business. Despite the fact my parents hoped I would have a career other than fashion, it didn’t happen. I have lint in my blood!”
A love of fashion is in Stein’s DNA. These days she is making waves as fashion editor of Palm Springs Life magazine, styling the cover of the magazine’s Fashion Issue spotlighting the king and queen of style, George Hamilton and Joan Collins, while bringing the latest in runway fashion to the desert.
El Paseo Fashion Week takes place this year in a large, chic white tent across the street from the Gardens, a high end bi-level shopping center in the heart of El Paseo. The tent’s focal point is a 52-foot runway surrounded by seating for 650 people, and more often than not, there’s standing room only. This year 140 models participated along with 20 designers.
Stein turned heads again when the numbers revealed she had transformed Palm Desert’s El Paseo Fashion Week into a worldclass event with a record-breaking attendance of 9,000 over eight days. Individual events included a bachelor auction, the Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival, the True Glitz-Rendezvous Rodeo and Rhinestone, the Trina Turk Palm Springs Eternal fashion show, and the Best of Saks Fifth Avenue fashion revue.
“Fashion fans plan their vacations here during Fashion Week,” Stein says. She has already starting planning for the 2012 event which will, once again, transform El Paseo into a fashionista’s paradise. As for retirement in the desert, Stein says, “Just remember he who rests, rusts!”