By  on April 5, 2007

Denim reached artistic heights and stratospheric prices at DIFFA Dallas' annual benefit extravaganza Saturday night.

The 18th auction of denim jackets done by designers from all fields sought to raise $1 million for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS and HIV service organizations in north Texas. The annual event has the distinction of being the largest DIFFA fund-raiser outside New York.

For the second consecutive year, J.C. Penney design director Geoffrey Henning styled the look that captured the highest bid — $30,000 for a jacket that was sculpted to the body; trimmed with Mongolian fur, cock feathers and crystals, and stitched to a 20-foot, quilted red taffeta train. It helped that the entry was bundled with four American Airlines tickets for a two-week stay at a private condo on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Jeweled crosses and 18th-century gowns inspired the reworking of some of the other 140 jackets that started life as Arizona-brand denim, but were typically unrecognizable after they'd been recut, enhanced with other fabrics, embroidered, appliquéd, jeweled, studded, feathered and furred. Kenneth Cole, who has supplied a jacket for 17 years, stitched "I have issues" across the back of his garment.

"We go to all creative people, not just fashion," said Gretchen Kelly, executive director of DIFFA. "We always get new designers and new energy, which is what we need to keep the show going."

The runway show, party and after party at the Hilton Anatole Hotel attracted more than 1,800 people and was staffed by about 350 volunteers, she said.

The show is always the main attraction, highlighted this year by a scene of drag queens in red and bare-chested muscle men in fireman hats vamping to the tune of "Burning Down the House."

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