Flora Major, a charming, Hungarian-born philanthropist, is a patroness of the arts. She met with us in her downtown Sarasota residence to talk about her commitment to the arts, her style and the Sarasota events she loves to attend.
WHO: Flora Major, 66, philanthropist and former entrepreneur in the telecommunications business in New York City and the textile industry in North Carolina.
WHAT I DO: In 1973, I started the first-ever retail store specializing in telephones and related accessories. It was called Phone-Tique Gallery, and it was located on Madison Avenue. I sold the business in 1979 to Tandy Corporation (Radio Shack). After marrying my late husband, Andrew, I moved to North Carolina, where I headed up the international sales department for a large upholstery manufacturer.
I’m an ardent supporter of the arts. After I moved to Sarasota in 2005, I got involved in this dynamic community, which has so many cultural assets. Today, I attend committee meetings and fundraise for charities and have chaired a lot of events. I do the work--I don't just write a check. I think it’s important to attend meetings and provide input. I’m especially proud of the $22.5 million I helped raise for the historic school-turning -museum on South Tamiami Trail – the Sarasota Museum of Art, a division of the Ringling College of Art and Design.
LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT: Ringling College of Art & Design, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Designing Women Boutique, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation.
CURRENT LEADERSHIP/BOARD POSITIONS: I currently serve on the boards of the Ringling College of Art & Design, Asolo Repertory Theatre, the Council for the Arts at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States.
I’ve previously served on the boards for Designing Women Boutique, Sarasota Orchestra, North Carolina Museum of Art, Duke University Museum of Art and the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, among others.
FAVORITE FUNDRAISERS TO ATTEND: One of my favorite annual events is the fundraising dinner at Asolo Repertory Theatre. You are served a four-course dinner and sit on the stage. It’s magical.
Another great event is An Evening at the Avant-Garde for the Ringling College of Art & Design. There’s always a theme and it’s a fun and funky event. Last year, the theme was animated movies, and I attended as Kung-Fu Panda.
MY STYLE: It’s eclectic, never boring and depends on the occasion and my mood. I think it’s important to always dress for the occasion. I do have some edgy outfits that break the traditional mold.
I like to mix costume jewelry with real jewelry; it’s different and interesting. I’m attracted to bigger, chunkier pieces that stand out. I was always the tallest in class, so I made an entrance, and I got used to being noticed. I also love to wear hats, shawls and scarves, and I love shoes and have a lot of them.
HOW HAS YOUR STYLE EVOLVED? I always wanted to look older when I was young. That is not the case anymore. I dress edgier now. Now, I dare to wear pink with red and blue with green. Back then, I would not take those risks. I’ve grown to know my own style, and I’m much more comfortable with myself.
DO YOU HAVE A STYLE MANTRA? Less is more. After you’ve gotten dressed, look in the mirror and take off one thing. With the outfit I’m wearing now, I had on a long black-and-red necklace. But when I looked in the mirror, it was too much so I took it off.
WHO ARE YOUR STYLE ICONS? My mother and Greta Garbo, the Swedish-born American film actress during the 1930s.
FAVORITE DESIGNERS: I love Yves St. Laurent, Oscar de la Renta and the old classic Escada. For shoes, I like Walter Steiger and Maud Frizon. But if you have a nice, basic dress, it doesn’t have to be from a designer. Pair it with good accessories like nice shoes or a beautiful handbag, and it works.
MY GO-TO ITEM: A classic navy blazer; it always looks right. It is an investment piece. It is wonderful for traveling. You can pair it with a t-shirt and a scarf or wear it with jeans.
MOST PRIZED POSSESSION? That changes with time, of course. Today, my most prized possession is a sculpture called Word Queen of Poetry from Brooklyn sculptor, Lesley Dill. It’s a piece from 2007 with the letters from the Pablo Neruda poem scrambled in the sculpture. It’s made of wire and steel and stands 74 inches tall.
Flora is wearing a dress by St. John, Walter Steiger heels, a handbag by Yves Saint Laurent, a platinum, teardrop diamond necklace, a Chopard's Happy Diamonds watch, costume rings purchased in Italy, elephant earrings and coral pin from Angela Caputi and an Italian coral bracelet purchased in Santa Fe.
A Florida native, Alicia King Robinson is the director of public relations at Sarasota-based ThreeSixOh Public Relations and the blogger behind New Version of You. Her love of fashion and eye for stylish living began at an early age. Meant to inspire, she explores fashion and the evolution and ever-changing versions of ourselves with style-inspired content.