Woman Dies After Collapsing At Fashion Show

Published February 16, 2012 4:36PM (EST)

NEW YORK (AP) — A 95-year-old woman known for her love of Manhattan's nightlife and arts scene died after collapsing at a show during New York Fashion Week.

Zelda Kaplan was sitting in the front row of designer Joanna Mastroianni's show Wednesday at Lincoln Center at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week when she collapsed. She was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman Elizabeth Dowling, who could not provide a cause of death.

Kaplan was a friend of the designer's stylist, Mia Morgan, according to the designer's husband, Gideon Lewin, and had attended a number of Mastroianni's shows.

"I was sitting right next to her. She flopped over in my lap," said Ruth Finley, publisher of the Fashion Calendar. "The show was just starting. I thought she fainted. Two men carried her out."

Mastroianni, in a statement, said Kaplan had been "a staple in the New York social scene" for 40 years. "She is best known for her sense of style and her incredible joie d'vivre," she said, adding, "She will be sorely missed."

Kaplan was known for her lively nightlife, attending art openings, parties and clubs with people young enough to be her great-grandchildren. She was profiled by The New York Times and the Village Voice among others, and was the subject of a 2004 documentary film, "Her Name is Zelda." The film's promotional material described Kaplan's evolution from a "typical suburban housewife" to "a beloved and eccentric creature of New York nightlife."

She also traveled widely, supported international women's rights causes and proudly wore unusual clothing designed from traditional fabric she said she collected in Africa and other places.

"She started out as a typical 1950s housewife, married and she had several different stages to her life," said Tricia Romano, who profiled her for the Village Voice in 2006. "The stage I met her in was her going out stage." She said they met at 11:30 p.m. and spent hours going from nightclub to nightclub.

"She would have her signature glass of champagne, sit and hold court," recalled Romano.

"She'll be greatly missed," Lewin said. "She lived a wonderful life and she came to a beautiful show and went to heaven."

The fashion show happened to be dedicated to a 90-year-old woman, Iris Apfel, an influential textile designer.

By Salon Staff

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