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WASHINGTON — A potential presidential candidate, a CIA agent, an actress and two fashion heavyweights might not seem to have much in common. But they were brought together by Vital Voices, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing women’s leadership around the world, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts here Thursday night.

A plethora of politicians and fashion leaders, including Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R., Tex.), designer Diane von Furstenberg, Paul Charron, chairman and chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne, which is a big contributor to Vital Voices and actress Julia Ormond, turned out for an hourlong awards ceremony.

The event drew more than 500 people and honored five women who have made major strides in the areas of human rights and antihuman trafficking, political participation and economic opportunity. The group included the first female minister of finance and economy for Nigeria, an advocate against human trafficking in Israel, a woman who overcame personal brutality in Pakistan, the first female president of Liberia and a group of women from Kuwait.

Von Furstenberg, who designed the bipartisan organization’s new logo — two Vs in the form of birds — revealed a little of the perfectionist within as she waited backstage to present an award, fretting over the green and blue V-emblazoned silk scarves because they were not handmade and the seams were uneven.

Sleep deprivation and an emotionally draining day might have played a role. The designer had been on the go since 3 a.m., having traveled from New York straight to the Capitol for a Holocaust memorial — her mother is a Holocaust survivor — and capping it off with the Kennedy Center event that night.

“A scarf is like a woman’s flag,” said von Furstenberg. “Their old logo was just [two Vs in the shape of a W] and I told them it was ugly and dry, so I did two birds, the color of green and blue because it represents life and water.”

Charron, who is retiring from Claiborne at the end of the year, insisted he has no political aspirations and will never run for office. Hard to believe, coming from a ceo who once held designs on being governor of Kentucky.

This story first appeared in the May 1, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“A lot of people don’t understand that I’ve had five or six careers already,” Charron said. “I was in the military, in the package goods business, the entrepreneurial business, commodity apparel and fashion apparel. So it’s time to go and write a couple more chapters — those chapters will either be in private equity in or around the industry or they will be in government. I’ve got a lot of friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Meanwhile, the evening had a little political intrigue of its own. Clinton briefly held court with former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, the intelligence officer at the heart of the CIA leak case that has ensnared top Bush administration officials.