NEW YORK — As a chair of tonight’s Costume Institute benefit and the CFDA’s choice for Style Icon at its June 2 event, Nicole Kidman understands the delicate art of celebrity-driven fashion statements.

Now she’s looking to the fashion industry to get behind a cause close to her own heart —?raising support and funding for initiatives to combat women’s cancers. Kidman, who has recently committed to serve as the first chair of The Women’s Health Fund at UCLA, will also join Saks Fifth Avenue to kick off its new fund-raising program as the celebrity face of its Key to the Cure campaign. And she plans to do a lot more than serve as a model.

"My mother is a breast cancer survivor," Kidman said in a phone interview on Saturday. "It is very difficult to see the person you love go through so much pain, losing her hair and seeing the way that chemotherapy wreaks havoc on the body. As a teenage girl, watching my mother go through that had a marked effect on my life. It is something I will never forget, and I made a pledge to myself then that if I was ever in the position to do something — if I ever had the chance to work for the possibility to stop this disease — then that is what I would do."

Kidman, who is working on behalf of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA to raise funds for its women’s health programs and clinical research, will appear in nationwide advertisements for Saks’ Key to the Cure program that will break in September. She is wearing a Danskin T-shirt designed by Stella McCartney for the cause, which is a new partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund.

"I’ve been involved in raising money for women’s reproductive cancers for a while now," Kidman said from a photo shoot for the campaign at Patrick Demarchelier’s studio. "When Saks came to me and said this would raise an enormous amount more, I knew it was something I wanted to do."

As reported, after ending its four-year relationship with the CFDA’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative, Saks partnered with the film industry’s official charitable arm in February to expand its commitment to raise money for women’s cancer issues. The new campaign will include a four-day shopping promotion, from Sept. 17 to 20, during which 2 percent of sales at all Saks locations will be donated to local and national women’s reproductive cancer research centers.Danskin is underwriting the production of 12,000 of the McCartney-designed T-shirts, which feature a trompe-l’oeil photo print of a dozen necklaces, featuring lockets that spell out her name or that feature a pink key that represents the Key to the Cure. McCartney said the cancer-related death of her mother, Linda McCartney, inspired her to get involved. "It’s like a jewel," she said. "Wear it close to your heart."

The entire $29 purchase price of the shirts will be earmarked for the charity, which will raise an additional $348,000 for the cause if they sell out, plus other companies are making products to tie-in to the event, such as a pink Burberry trench that will be sold at both Burberry and Saks stores.

Additionally, Mercedes-Benz USA expects to raise more than $1 million through sales of a limited edition 2004 CLK500 Cabriolet, about 300 of which will produced. Last year, Mercedes created 60 cars for the Saks cause, which sold out in one day.

"We just couldn’t have a better confluence of events," said Christina Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises. "We couldn’t be more excited and pleased to have Nicole Kidman involved, because she is a marvelous representative for women’s health issues. The amount of awareness this campaign can make with a celebrity of her stature is incredibly helpful."

As for Kidman, she’s more than willing to put in extra hours to promote the cause, and she has turned to fashion because apart from the creative artistic expression she has found there, she has also discovered, she said, "there are a lot of people in this industry who are very committed to also giving back. Fashion can be deemed as frivolous, but it’s also artistic, and there are a lot of people with very big hearts who want to give."

And while she enjoys the subject matter more than many celebrities, Kidman claims to enjoy watching fashion more so than acting as a style icon. "What I enjoy about it is the idea of imagery speaking to different generations and to other people," she said. "I remember as a child certain images of things — whether it’s ‘Grease’ and HotPants or Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn. Those images are indelible, and something that happens to add value to life. I don’t know if I do that, but I enjoy watching, anyway."The fashion image she made on Saturday in McCartney’s T-shirt, however, could contribute a lot more. The designer, who’s in town this week, told Kidman she wanted to make the shirt "foxy."

"And foxy is what it is," Kidman said.

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