RANCHO SANTA FE, CA (February 23, 2021) — Designs from top international luxury brands will take to the runway in Rancho Santa Fe on September 16 when The Country Friends presents the Art of Fashion in partnership with South Coast Plaza. The annual runway show and luncheon, held for 65 years at the historic Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, highlights the latest trends from the fall/winter collections of a carefully curated selection of the center’s renowned retailers. This year’s event marks the nonprofit’s 17-year partnership with the West Coast’s premier shopping destination.

“We are so delighted to team up once again with South Coast Plaza, known for its unmatched collection of luxury brands,” says Suzanne Newman, president of The Country Friends. “Art of Fashion is our signature event, an annual tribute to fall, fashion, and philanthropy, which raises crucial funds for San Diego County charities.” This year’s event, emceed by ABC 10 News anchor Kimberly Hunt, will benefit dozens of nonprofits selected by The Country Friends Board of Directors after careful review.

Newman noted that last year’s runway show was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but she is hopeful this year’s show will go on as the vaccine roll out continues and fewer people become infected. However, the number of attendees may be limited in keeping with state and local guidelines, and safety protocols will be in place. Newman will serve as co-chair of the Art of Fashion with Yvette Letourneau and Deborah Cross, all of whom are on The Country Friends Board of Directors. Cross and her husband, Les, are also being recognized as honorary chairs because of their extraordinary, 14-year commitment to the organization.

Deborah joined The Country Friends Board in 2008, was elected president from 2014-2018, and now serves as first vice president. She and Les also are on TCF’s finance committee. The couple co-chair The Country Friends Legacy Campaign, and also headed up the inaugural “Giving Hearts Gala” in 2018 to benefit that capital campaign. A San Diego native, Deborah graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a master’s degree in audiology. She worked as an audiologist for Kaiser Permanente for several years before starting her own practice at the age of 28, expanding the business to six offices in San Diego County.

Les, originally from Sydney, Australia, has worked in the medical device arena for most of his successful career. In 2011, he retired as chief executive officer of DJO Global, Inc., a leading provider of orthopedic devices. He later took the helm as chairman of the board of Alphatec Spine, retiring in 2015. Les now loves to consult, travel, paint, and join Deborah in giving back to community.

The Crosses have played active roles in charities that include the USS Midway Museum, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito. They also support Casa de Amparo, Support the Enlisted Project, Heifer International, Project Concern International, Susan G. Komen, Rady Children’s Hospital, and The Salvation Army, which honored Deborah as a “Woman of Dedication” in 2018 for her long community service. The couple has three children: Lara-Lee, Sarah, and Andrew.

ABOUT THE COUNTRY FRIENDS: The Country Friends is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, formed 67 years ago to provide needed funding for San Diego County-based charities. Its mission is “Helping San Diegans since 1954: One Hand at a Time.” The organization raises funds primarily through the Art of Fashion and proceeds from its Rancho Santa Fe Consignment Shop, which specializes in exquisite furniture, antiques, rugs, silver, china and objets d’art. Since its founding, The Country Friends has raised nearly $14 million to support human care agencies, with special emphasis on services to women, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities. Information:, 858.756.1192, extension 4,

ABOUT SOUTH COAST PLAZA: Renowned as a leading international shopping destination, South Coast Plaza is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques, critically acclaimed restaurants, and the adjacent celebrated Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the Orange County Museum of Art. It is the West Coast’s premier shopping experience, with its proximity to beaches and John Wayne Airport, customized concierge services, and unparalleled collection of diverse retailers — from Gucci, Hermès, Cartier, and Harry Winston to Saint Laurent, The Webster, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, and more. South Coast Plaza is located in Orange County, California, in the city of Costa Mesa. Information:, 800.782.8888.