By  on February 9, 1994

DALLAS -- Who would have thought that by cropping a Levi's denim jacket, covering it with black suede and sprinkling it with gold and crystal studs, it could be sold for $15,000?The price floored even the organizers of the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS annual benefit here, in which embellished and reconstructed Levi's jackets were auctioned to raise funds for local AIDS service organizations. The record bid for the jacket, designed by Los Angeles handbag and apparel designer Kathrine Baumann and purchased by Dolores Milhous, Dallas socialite, was just one in a series of firsts for the fifth annual benefit, held at the Loews Anatole Hotel on Jan. 29. The show had been rescheduled from its original October date because of repairs being made at the hotel.A record crowd of about 2,000 people paid $50 to $250 each to attend the event, which for the first time will kick off a national tour of seven other cities -- Boston, Houston, Phoenix, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle. An international array of designers and celebrities plus local fashion, interior and jewelry designers in the participating cities has been asked to embellish a Levi's denim jacket so that 100 jackets will be auctioned at each show.Participants include Calvin Klein, Joseph Abboud, Giorgio Armani, Elizabeth Taylor and Whoopi Goldberg. At last Saturday's gala, 98 jackets brought in a total of $125,600 -- a 25 percent jump over last year.With ticket sales and underwriting, DIFFA expects net proceeds will exceed last year's $242,000 yield. Neiman Marcus and Levi Strauss are the national presenting sponsors."We ask our employees and our customers what's important to them, what do they want to support, and DIFFA was an easy choice," said Terry Lundgren, chairman and chief executive officer of Neiman's. Lundgren, as noted, has accepted a position as ceo of the merchandising division of Federated Department Stores Co. and is expected to remain at Neiman's until April 1. He and his wife, Nancy, are honorary co-chairs of the national tour."I hope whoever succeeds me takes over [as honorary national chairman] because Neiman's is very involved and is very committed to the DIFFA organization," he said. "In my new role I'll stay committed to the organization because I believe in it." Speaking at a patron reception just before the show, Nancy Lundgren promised, "We're going to put on the best fashion show ever. You're going to see some great stuff."What followed was a campy pageant of 50 energetic male and female models wearing special costumes that spanned a couple of millenia. Many of the costumes included a decorated Levi's jacket. The costumes, music, videos, props and lighting used in the Dallas show will travel to the other cities along with a DIFFA production staff. The tour starts March 12 in Houston and concludes in Los Angeles on June 18. George Porter, president of Levi's USA, bought back one of the firm's jackets for $2,500, but not before it had been dyed and turned into a kimono with full-length sleeves made of antique kimono silk by local interior designers Beau Black and Steven Dunn. Porter plans to frame it and hang it in the lobby of Levi's headquarters in San Francisco.

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