CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Brad Johnson, owner of 319 King, a women's bridge-to-designer sportswear shop, has recently combined trunk shows with charity benefits to create excitement and develop his customer base.

"Some of our customers who were involved in volunteer fund-raising approached me about getting involved in benefits," said Johnson, owner of two locations, a 1,365-square-foot store in downtown Charleston, and 319 Beach, a 900-square-foot store on nearby Kiawah Island. "I thought it would be a good way to give something back to the community."

Johnson's foray into trunk show benefits began last June and has snowballed since then. "If you'd told me two years ago I would stage two big Armani trunk shows and host Lauren Hutton and Randy Kemper in the store, I wouldn't have believed it," he said.

Johnson picked up Armani Le Collezioni for fall 1993, launching the line with a trunk show and benefit for the Spoleto Festival in June 1993. The event took place at a recently renovated Italianate Charleston mansion and was decorated to Armani specifications with white flowers and linens. The show sold $40,000 worth of Armani's fall merchandise, including six wool and viscose tweed jackets at $745. In November, a spring trunk show benefit for a local art museum, also held in a restored home, brought in $60,000.

In late July, Johnson held an in-store trunk show fund-raiser for the Charleston Symphony, with designer Randy Kemper in attendance. The event sold $38,000 in a day-and-a-half. As a rule, Johnson donates 10 percent of proceeds to the benefit charity.

"We usually expect to sell about $30,000," said Dianna de Martino, vice president of sales and marketing for Randy Kemper.

This fall, Johnson co-sponsored a kickoff gala for Worldfest Charleston, a film festival that relocated to Charleston from Houston, Texas, this year. With Lauren Hutton as guest celebrity, the in-store event drew 250 people and local press coverage. Organized around the theme "Fashions Influenced by Film," Johnson put together looks from 319 King inspired by recent movies such as "Aladdin," "Unforgiven" and "Chaplin," and classics such as "Annie Hall" and "A Hard Day's Night" in an informal fashion show.

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