Suit of Honor

Leonard Simpson’s 10 Best Dressed Awards honor local philanthropy.



Scene: The crowd at Leonard Simpson's Best Dressed 2011

Tom Truman Photography

10 Best Dressed in San Diego 

To anyone who has attended one of his extravagant fashion events or witnessed him host a red carpet gala, Leonard Simpson is, quite simply, larger than life. Known for founding the trademarked fashion production company Fashion Forward™, Simpson has appeared on television for the last two decades, etching his moniker on San Diego’s red carpet as an expert in his industry.

But his close friends and coworkers know his passion for fashion and eccentric personality are overshadowed only by his generous heart and dedication to charitable causes. Despite his fame, Simpson still finds time every year to focus on charitable giving. Months before San Diego’s winter traditions begin, Simpson is busy planning the “10 Best Dressed Awards,” a celebration of some of San Diego’s most generous philanthropists. The award honors the winners for being positive role models in their communities and contributors to their perspective charities.

“The beauty of giving and fashion go hand-in-hand,” Simpson said. “Recognizing people who wear gloves of compassion and a coat of courage to inspire others with style to serve a greater purpose in their community is what this event is all about.”

 Mary Murphy, Sonya Berg, Diana Shapiro, Ellen Zinn, Barbie Spinazolla,  Cheryl Mitchell, Heather Winfield, Audrey Geisel,
[ From bottom to top: Sally B. Thornton (Founding Chair), Mary Murphy, Sonya Berg, Diana Shapiro, Ellen Zinn, Barbie Spinazolla,  Cheryl Mitchell & Heather Winfield. Missing from photo: Muffy Walker - photo below. Laura Martella - photo below. Audrey Geisel - not pictured.]

Guests of this annual high-profile event behold Simpson’s vision come to life through meticulous attention to detail and keen eye for all things fabulous. This year’s “Style Land” theme, inspired by international fashions, will tour the world’s fashion capitals through a show written and produced by Simpson and Executive Director Joan Jiménez that will be debuting Nov. 30 in the the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. The fifth anniversary of Simpson’s labor of love will itself raise funds for some of San Diego’s most respected charities.

Muffy Walker Leonard simpson ten best dressed fine magazine
Muffy Walker (Photographed on a separate day.)

Laura Martella with Gentleman Norman leonard simpson ten best dressed fine magazine
Laura Martella with Gentleman Norman (Photographed on a separate day.)

Celebrity Mary Murphy from Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance”—honorary chair and one of this year’s winners—will present with Founding Chairwoman Sally B. Thornton and Fashion Forward vice president Brittany Noelle Simpson, Leonard Simpson’s daughter. Twenty honorees—10 men and 10 women—will be recognized and awarded for their outstanding contributions to local nonprofit organizations. Thornton explains the selection process: “Well-rounded personalities with many interests…a passion for perfection in business and charity, enable them by virtue of their accomplishments to become role models.”

Charities benefiting from this year’s event include Home Start, PAWS San Diego, St. Madeline’s Sophie Center, The ARC of San Diego and the San Diego Historical Police Association.

Papa Doug Manchester,  Dan Spinazolla, Wayne Foster, Roy Silver, Dean Loring, Tim Zinn, John Spanos, Toby Macfarlane, Amir Mojaver, Jeff Jacobs
Papa Doug Manchester,  Dan Spinazolla, Wayne Foster, Roy Silver, Dean Loring, Tim Zinn, John Spanos, Toby Macfarlane & Amir Mojaver. (Missing from photo: Jeff Jacobs)

The integrated programs at Home Start have been helping children living in poverty throughout San Diego since 1977. This private nonprofit agency is dedicated to preventing child abuse and supporting families with programs that increase stability and self-sufficiency, keeping families together, and transforming the lives of children through education with a staff sensitive to ethnic and cultural difference. Their programs include family therapeutic services, maternity programs for homeless or at-risk women, accessible healthcare programs, and a wide range of treatments for victims of abuse. In addition to providing counseling or therapy, Home Start also conducts psychological testing to help children and adults alike navigate the difficulties of mental or behavioral health needs.

St. Madeline’s Sophie Center has been a place of self-discovery and empowerment for thousands of adults with developmental disabilities, nurturing their potential to become a greater part of society. For more than 45 years, the five-acre campus in El Cajon has helped students work through the challenges of their disability by providing programs that assist in job training and placement. St. Madeline’s Sophie Center is committed to high standards of excellence recognized by the businesses to which it provides services. The nonprofit’s highly regarded reputation is apparent in the pride of its students and in their accomplishments.

PAWS San Diego is providing services to people in need of pet assistance, including food, pet supplies, veterinary services and resources to keep pets healthy and happy. The benefits of pet ownership promoted by PAWS support physical, emotional and social well-being to low-income elderly, chronically ill and disabled individuals entirely through donations, special events, grants, local San Diego businesses—and always through the tireless effort of volunteers.

The Arc of San Diego is one of the region’s largest service agencies dedicated to helping people with disabilities of all ages. Founded in 1951, Arc specializes in educational programs to inspire social, economic and personal independence.

The fifth charity to benefit from the black-tie event is the San Diego Historical Police Association, a nonprofit group of police officers and citizens dedicated to the preservation and display of the 160-year history of the San Diego City law enforcement. The organization has a historical museum located in off College Avenue, which includes several thousand artifacts and more than 22,000 photos chronicling the history of the SD police department.

These charities will share the total net proceeds of Simpson’s realized journey through Styleland. The evening is both a celebration of style and a seasonal gesture acknowledging those who give back the most, long before the spirit of giving ever catches the wind.