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Hilfiger Helps Raise $2.5M for MS Research

There was glitz and groove to spare at the 13th annual Race to Erase MS benefit, which raised a record $2.5 million for multiple sclerosis research.

LOS ANGELES — There was glitz and groove to spare at the 13th annual Race to Erase MS benefit, which raised a record $2.5 million for multiple sclerosis research.

“Disco Fever” was the theme of the event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel here Friday night, and some among the estimated 1,400 guests, including Brooke Shields — who last month gave birth to her second daughter, Grier — and comedian Byron Allen took the dress code to heart, showing up wearing huge Afro wigs. Most guests, however, opted for colorful contemporary cocktail attire rather than retro duds.

Gala founder Nancy Davis and Tommy Hilfiger, the sponsor of the event, greeted guests, who included Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Rod Stewart and Lara Flynn Boyle.

The ballroom was done up in a disco rainbow, with giant rose and disco ball centerpieces on the round tables, and there were mini disco ball pendants for everyone.

“The challenge is to do it in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Davis said of the benefit. “We try to keep guests entertained and raise awareness for multiple sclerosis research. Fashion and music are great ways to do that. And who doesn’t like disco?”

As it does each year, the evening kicked off with a celebrity fashion show. “Dancing With the Stars” runners-up Lisa Rinna and Louis van Amstel opened the show with an intricate salsa number. Lohan, Richie and actresses Michelle Trachtenberg, Brooke Burke, Sophia Bush and Samaire Armstrong strutted down the catwalk in short and sparkly numbers, such as Lohan’s white bugle-beaded tunic and Richie’s silver sequin minidress, which Hilfiger designed specially for the evening. While some items may have had mass appeal, others, like fur-trimmed bell-bottoms and purple vinyl pants, did not.

Hilfiger, who has announced he’s financing a new movie, “Rags,” about a young African-American woman who wants to be a designer, said he plans to be a hands-on producer only “if it’s not too distracting from my designing and if it enhances the aura of my brand.”

Tommy Hilfiger Corp. was acquired by Apax Partners Funds on May 10 and the main corporate offices moved to Amsterdam from Hong Kong. But Hilfiger, in a navy suit, insisted, “My role won’t change that dramatically. I’ll still oversee all the creative from my New York office.”

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On Friday night, however, his main concern was entertaining his dinner partners, Paris and Nicky Hilton, and enjoying the performances by Kool & the Gang, Sister Sledge, Natalie Cole and Macy Gray.

“The way of the world now is pop culture,” he noted.