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Fashioning Change

Portola Valley philanthropist Paula Carano’s passion for giving benefits a breadth of causes, including a new exhibition celebrating the life and career of Oscar de la Renta.

ORANGE CRUSH
Paula Carano in an embellished silk dress from Oscar de la Renta’s Resort 2016 collection, paired with wavy Prada sandals.

 

Paula Carano’s heart fluttered when she glimpsed the Oscar de la Renta gown that became her first, knowing that the black-and-white strapless confection would always remain a favorite. And it has, even though she’s since collected many more de la Rentas—including an extraordinary one she will wear to the March opening of the late designer’s work at the de Young Museum.

Upon learning of plans for the world’s first de la Renta retrospective, Paula joined the Benefactor’s Circle in a heartbeat. “My passion for his dresses will never be satiated,” she says, sitting in the sun-drenched drawing room of her Portola Valley home. “I truly admire the craftsmanship and talent that goes into every piece. They are works of art.”

A longtime fashion aficionado, Paula and her husband, Bandel Carano, are regulars on best-dressed lists and society photo spreads. But their philanthropic pursuits outpace their varied vetements. The couple—she is a former banking executive and he is a managing partner at Oak Investment Partners in Palo Alto—donates to more than 40 organizations, nonprofits and institutions. They are patrons of Stanford University, Bandel’s alma mater, supporting the pediatric emergency department at its medical center and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. Their educational undertakings also include The Nueva School, attended by three of their children.

From the ballet, symphony and opera in San Francisco to the Navy SEAL Foundation and other veterans’ organizations, Paula says she and Bandel feel a deep affinity to the causes to which they contribute: “We don’t really look at giving as a strategy or a single campaign. It’s really a personal journey of interests that have grown over time. It’s more like a love impulse.”

She continues, “A lot of what I do is fashion-focused, and that is the playful, fun side of things. But when you really help restore someone’s faith that they are cared for, and that there is compassion in the world, then hearts are connected, and there is no greater joy.”

Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective, March 12–May 30, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, 415.750.3600.

 

Originally published in the March issue of Silicon Valley

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