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DIFFA Dallas Hosts 20th Runway Benefit to Fight AIDS

Neither rain nor thrift dampened the mood as DIFFA Dallas presented its runway performance and auction of refashioned denim to benefit AIDS organizations.

DALLAS — Neither rain nor thrift nor flu dampened the mood as DIFFA Dallas presented its 20th annual runway performance and auction of refashioned denim to benefit AIDS service organizations.

About 1,500 guests braved a downpour May 2 to attend the gala at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. Dallas bills itself as the largest chapter of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS.

“There’s a lot of people here tonight. Don’t panic, I brought over 2,000 doses of Tamiflu with me,” joked DIFFA chairman Gary Tigges. “As you can imagine, fund-raising this year has not been an easy task. We are especially humbled to see you here tonight.”

Themed “Utopia,” a reference to an idyllic world without AIDS, the show featured 110 retooled Arizona-brand jackets in an exuberant production that affirmed its history of celebrating life and love. Ballet dancers in classic blush corsets and tulle skirts, a DayGlo clad acrobat dangling from ribbons and characters in giant masks shared a shifting psychedelic backdrop with the parade of jackets serenaded by retro pop hits by the likes of the Beatles, Boy George and Donna Summer.

Revenues were expected to be about equal to last year’s gross of $800,000 to $1 million when combined with additional fund-raisers planned through June, said event co-chairman Mark Stafford. Last year, DIFFA Dallas gave out $540,000 in grants to 18 area organizations that help people living with AIDS, he noted.

“We hope to do that much or more this year in these difficult times, so we are raising money before and after the show,” Stafford said.

As is customary, eight jackets were offered with luxury goods to boost bids. Tops this year was $20,000 for a cutaway brocade coat by Dallas designer Abi Ferrin bundled with $50,000 of dental veneers, a $15,000 amethyst and diamond ring by Dallas jeweler Marc Arbadji, a $5,000 shopping spree at Barneys New York and a tea party at Carolina Herrera with eight $500 gift cards. Jackets in the silent auction sold for $200 to $3,800.

Most designers kept the jacket’s original shape and tricked it up with paint, jewels, appliqués, leather, silk, metal or fur. Some remade them into dresses, coats and even sculpture. Designers included Emma Watson, Alberto Makali, Kenneth Cole, Marc Bouwer, Adrienne Landau, David Meister, Lela Rose, Simon Doonan, George Sharp for St. John Knits and Geoffrey Henning, who designed two, including the finale olive silk velvet gown trimmed with Siberian fox collar and cuffs.