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Sweater loss sets back designer

October 21, 2005|By By Lauren Vane

Entrepreneur has $12,000 worth of cashmere disappear before a big show.It was supposed to be a big weekend for fashion designer Julie Willgeroth. The local entrepreneur was slated for a big trunk show in Las Vegas to display her spring collection of cashmere sweaters under her own label, "knitwit." Celebrities and clothing buyers were planning to attend.

For the 30-year-old designer from Newport Beach, it was all happening -- until her entire collection of 44 cashmere sweaters was stolen from just outside the front gate to her Corona del Mar home, minutes before she and her fiance were leaving for the airport.

The theft forced Willgeroth to cancel her show -- and with it, all hopes of catching the eyes of buyers and celebrities during fashion week.

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"All these people were waiting on them -- they're gone!" Willgeroth said.

She had spent days carefully packing a large, black, Tumi duffel bag with the sweaters. Finally, ready to leave for the airport and catch a flight to Vegas, Willgeroth placed the bag just outside her white picket fence, while she went inside for several minutes to finish some last-minute tasks.

When she came out of the house, the bag was gone.

Willgeroth's home on Poinsettia Avenue sits alongside a high-traffic alleyway that gives drivers on nearby 2nd Avenue easy access to East Coast Highway.

She thinks someone drove through, saw the bag and snatched it up. It's possible someone could have been watching her and then stole the bag, or maybe someone snatched it, with no idea of what they were taking, Willgeroth said.

"I just don't think anybody possibly could have known just how important it truly was," Willgeroth said.

She's now offering a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to the recovery of her sweaters. No questions asked, Willgeroth said.

So far, police don't have any leads, said Newport Police Sgt. Bill Hartford.

"In property crimes, what we do is put out teletypes to other law enforcement agencies to see if they have similar pattern occurring," Hartford said.

The detective assigned to the case will continually check pawn shops and eBay for the stolen merchandise, Hartford said.

The sweaters are unique and could be easily spotted if someone were to try to sell them, Willgeroth said. Over the weekend she traveled to several local swap meets to see if anyone was hawking her cashmeres; but still, no luck.

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