By  on March 7, 2002

Fashion was foremost at Dallas' annual denim jacket auction benefiting the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS.

At its runway show Saturday night, the charity showed 135 Levi's jackets embellished by various designers over spring fashions supplied by Neiman Marcus, Escada, Michael Faircloth, Daniel Swarovski and Forty-Five Ten.

The style differed from DIFFA shows in recent years, when the jackets have been modeled with theatrical costumes and headdresses in themed runway scenes.

"It took up the wearability of what we sell, because it made it look more like fashion and less like costume," said Todd Fiscus, who chaired and produced the show and also runs a local event production firm called Two Design Group. "But we did do the 'Moulin Rouge' scene and a heavy rock scene."

The sale of the jackets has proven an effective fund-raiser for the charity, and this year's DIFFA Dallas Collection is expected to net about $400,000 to support AIDS service organizations in North Texas.

True to its organizers' passion for a lively production, the show was no less dramatic than previous extravaganzas, highlighted this year by a 50-piece on-stage orchestra, indoor fireworks and closing songs performed by R&B singer Martha Wash. Hosted by TV personality Leeza Gibbons, the event's theme was "Pure," representing DIFFA's focus on helping people living with HIV and AIDS.

The festive show and dinner drew more than 1,300 people to the Great Hall of the International Apparel Mart, including Allen Questrom, chairman and chief executive officer of J.C. Penney Co., and his wife, Kelli, the event's honorary chairs.

Kelli Questrom told the crowd she had been unable to persuade her husband to join her at the podium.

"He said this was a bigger boardroom than he was used to," she joked.

For the second year running, local designer Michael Faircloth styled the top-dollar jacket. He sewed a black leather jacket with denim trim adorned with glittering pave-diamond white gold buttons supplied by Vivid Collection. He sewed that jacket overnight, to replace a similar style in seal fur that generated controversy when it was shown on local television last week in a preview of the DIFFA auction."I thought the seal would be luxurious and contrast with the pave diamond buttons," Faircloth reflected, "but we had some concerns with PETA. They were very displeased that a charity had chosen to use seal, although what I had used was perfectly legal. But I didn't want to have negative attention brought to the charity that is so dear to me."

Tiffany Mullen, a regular Faircloth customer, bought the leather jacket for $12,000.

As one of three people who came up with the idea to auction decorated denim jackets to raise money for DIFFA, Faircloth was honored at the gala this year for having styled DIFFA jackets that have earned more than $100,000 for the charity since the auction started in 1989.

The number-two jacket sold for $9,000 and was covered in Italian souvenir patches by Lucy Reeves Wrubel. Its big draw was a trip to Italy including a private tour of the Ferragamo shoe museum.

Other brands who restyled jackets included Diesel, Emporio Armani, DKNY, Philippe Starck, Kenneth Cole New York, Giuliana Teso and Todd Oldham.

The charity also bestowed its Legend in the Fight Against AIDS award to the Kim Dawson Agency, whose models have donated their time and talent to the auction since its inception. Jon and Michael Galluccio, a couple from New Jersey, were honored with the 2002 Profile Award recognizing their work with children living with AIDS and their adoption of four children infected with HIV.

Key underwriters of the show were MAC Cosmetics' MAC AIDS Fund, the presenting sponsor, as well as Absolut Vodka, Terry K. Watanabe Charitable Trust and the Clutts Agency. The five fashion companies who supplied accompanying clothing for the show, who had paid to participate, also showed their looks without the jackets.

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