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Men'sWeek issue 03/17/2011

LOS ANGELES — A strong group of supporters turned out to enjoy the warm and sunny Los Angeles weather Sunday afternoon at John Varvatos’ annual benefit for Stuart House, a charity for sexually abused children.

The eighth installment of the fund-raiser, held at Varvatos’ West Hollywood store at Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard, drew Zoe Saldana, Patrick Dempsey, LL Cool J, David Schwimmer, Perry Farrell and Brooke Burke and raised more than $500,000.

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“When you see what [Stuart House] is doing, how well they care for these kids in need and the critical sense of privacy and dignity they provide, as parents it’s impossible not to feel affected and get involved,” said Dempsey, who headed this year’s annual benefit committee with his wife, Jillian. “It’s still tough, but this year has been better in terms of contributions. We’re coming out of a stronger quarter, I think people’s concerns are easing a little.”

This year’s turnout was the biggest to date, with an estimated 1,500 supporters in attendance. “This year has been a great year, we sold a bunch of tickets online — more than ever before,” said Varvatos. “I can’t say there’s not any difficulty, but it’s a lot easier than it used to be. It’s a whole different world; on Day One we raised about $180,000 or something.”

To date, the event has raised more than $1.5 million for Stuart House.

“As an actor, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in yourself and your work; you have to step outside, pick your head up, look and support what’s really important, there’s so much need,” said Saldana. “It can be appalling when you realize what’s going on and how catastrophic it can be.”

Musical performer k.d. lang’s set had the elbow-to-elbow crowd pushed up against the stage swaying and grooving, including observers Gina Gershon and Omar Epps, while other attendees like Saldana, LL Cool J and emcee Bill Bellamy were more focused on the kids’ area activities like Build-a-Bear and decorate-your-own Converse tables.

Tickets for the fund-raiser sold for $200; silent and live auction items included a Dave Matthews-autographed guitar; a night in the exclusive Soho House’s private screening room for 50 people; a NASCAR driving lesson on the Toyota Speedway, and a trip to the NFL Super Bowl — good through 2013 given the league’s impending lockout.

Varvatos, who said the label would focus on European expansion efforts this year, shared that the brand would open home decor stores in 2012, though locations are still in the works.

This year’s benefit was cosponsored by Toyota, Macy’s and GQ.

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