By  on August 30, 2007

ATLANTA — With help from Oscar de la Renta, the Jeffrey Fashion Cares benefit here turned 15 years old on Monday night. The event raised $700,000 for AIDS and breast cancer research charities, compared with $435,000 last year.

Boutique owner Jeffrey Kalinsky, who is also director of designer merchandising at Nordstrom, again experimented with location, moving the event to the postmodern Allen Plaza, a 346,000-square-foot mixed-use development downtown. Along with greater corporate sponsorship, the venue itself helped bring in money, allowing more room for front-row seats that sold for $625 each, Kalinsky said.

De la Renta showed half of the evening's 28 runway looks, which also included fall offerings from Versace, Jil Sander, Balenciaga and Rodarte.

"Normally, I do not do these types of things because, with working on the spring collection, it's hard for me to get away," de la Renta said. "But I love Jeffrey's stores [in Atlanta and Manhattan]....[Atlanta] is a great city and it's certainly a very important city to our business."

Some 750 guests turned out for the event, which featured an auction that raised $64,000. Among the hottest items up for grabs were two tickets to Elton John's Oscar party that drew a $23,000 winning bid. Models walked on the floor instead of a raised runway this year and an after party was held at the W Hotel — another Fashion Cares first. Nordstrom, a benefit sponsor, donated $25,000 to the event, and Gucci and Manolo Blahnik each gave $15,000.

"Fifteen years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think a store our size could raise even $40,000," Kalinsky said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think Oscar de la Renta would fly in to help us celebrate our anniversary."

For the second year, five design students from Savannah College of Art and Design took their looks to the runway, and the "New Talent Award" went to Samantha Zinsmeister, whose Japanese-inspired collection featured strong lines and intricate construction.

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