FERRETTI IN DALLAS: Brian Bolke was extolled as more than an impresario of cutting-edge fashion when he and Marguerite Hoffman cohosted a dinner at her home Wednesday night to hail the fifth anniversary of his store, The Conservatory.

One by one, Hoffman, Todd Fiscus, Moll Anderson and Becca Cason Thrash stood to recognize Bolke’s passion and connection to his clientele in emotional tributes that reminded guests of a wedding.

Marguerite Hoffman and Brian Bolke. Photo by Beckley Co.

Alberta Ferretti, whose fashions Bolke has long promoted, and Aeffe U.S.A. president Khoa Nguyen were among the guests, many of whom wore styles from her spring collection.

After cocktails in Hoffman’s private art gallery studded with works by Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and dozens of other famous artists from the mid 20th and 21st centuries, everyone strolled past crepe myrtle trees threaded with white lights and found their places at a table for 42 on the loggia overlooking the garden.

The art gallery. Photo by Beckley Co.

“I’m so grateful to you for making a difference in my life,” Hoffman said in her toast to Bolke. “It’s about the people that are in his orbit that he loves, and because he cares he’s been able to be compelling in his business, The Conservatory…Thank you for blazing a path. Thank you for being a shining light.”

Admitting that he struggled to find the words to express his feelings, Bolke told the group he wrote “time,” “loyalty” and “longevity” on his hand. He recognized individual staffers at the table who have been with him since he created the Avant Garden floral shop 30 years ago in Highland Park Village and later cofounded the luxury store Forty Five Ten, which subsequently was sold to Headington Cos.

Bolke said he had “no idea what I was doing” when Forty Five Ten debuted in 2000, recounting that retail icon Stanley Marcus visited one month later.

“He had a cane and walked around the store very slowly and didn’t say a word. As he was leaving, he said, ‘If you make it one year, this will be very successful,’ and I was like, what does that mean? One year later I think we made it, and 9-11 happened. If you were in retail, you thought you were going to go out of business.”

A sale that helped keep the store alive was three pricy Ferretti skirts to one woman on the same day they arrived.

“Six months after 9-11, it was the biggest sale we’d ever had,” Bolke said. “For 22 years we’ve carried Alberta Ferretti.”

Telling the assemblage they were “very special” and “beautiful,” Ferretti added, “It is a very good inspiration for my next collection.”

“I wore Alberta Ferretti to the first Two by Two [for AIDS and Art], and I wish I still had it,” Thrash said.

Anderson, an interior designer and bestselling author, said Bolke was the first person she met upon moving to Dallas, which proved pivotal.

“You opened a whole new world for me,” she said. “You gave me experiences that I dreamt about…Thank you for taking the time to introduce us to people that I never would have met.”

Guests, representing almost a who’s who of Dallas art collectors, included Cindy Rachofsky, Christen and Derek Wilson, Faisal Halum, Leigh Anne Clark, Kasey Lemkin, Jennifer and John Eagle, Porschla Kidd, Lisa Runyon, Jennifer Karol and Bradley Agather Means.

They happily tucked into Art 2 Catering’s spread of gourmet comfort foods — buttermilk fried chicken with cream gravy, warm roast potato salad with goat cheese and wild mushrooms, glazed carrots and garlic cornbread followed by churros and chocolate-dipped orange rinds.

“The whole dinner felt very Southern, al fresco on the porch and served family style,” Thrash said. “Very cool.”

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