ATLANTA — Fashion Cares, a benefit for AIDS and breast cancer charities launched 12 years ago, has grown from a small affair to become Atlanta’s official fall fashion kickoff.
The event, presented by the ultrachic retailer Jeffrey Kalinsky, a hometown favorite, attracted more than 500 guests to the Woodruff Arts Center on Monday night who paid as much as $500 a ticket. They were dressed in colors worthy of Baskin Robbins, including bold Pucci prints and pointy designer shoes — and that was just the men. The women were even more expressive, wearing chiffon tunic tops, head wraps, jeans and stiletto boots as well as beaded gowns.
Kalinsky, 42, grew up in Charleston, S.C., but got his retail start in Atlanta 14 years ago, launching his Jeffrey boutique, along with a Bob Ellis designer shoe store and a Jil Sander unit in Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza. He also owns Jeffrey New York on West 14th Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Both stores cultivate ultrachic customers with head-to-toe women’s and men’s designer merchandise.
At a preshow reception, Kalinsky, dressed in a brilliant pink turtleneck and jeans, said he was thrilled with business this year, citing a 20 percent boost in sales, and record profits. He downplayed speculation that his stores are for sale.
“I’m very happy with the status quo and my business,” Kalinsky said. Minutes later, he added, “At the end of the day, everything is for sale.”
Gilbert W. Harrison, chairman of Financo, a New York investment bank specializing in apparel retail, said on Tuesday that two years ago, Kalinsky asked him to seek out offers from prospective buyers. With no active offers, he said the search is on hold.
“Jeffrey is one of the best merchants, with a great format and package,” Harrison said. “His business has tremendous expansion potential. But he needs the right partner.”
Kalinsky said Monday night that he had no expansion plans alone, but would talk to anyone about opportunities. “After 14 years in business, I don’t want to work any harder than I am now,” he said.
The luxury business is vibrant this year, as consumers have responded to designer offerings, especially from bestsellers Jil Sander, Pucci, Marni and Gucci, Kalinsky said.
If audience enthusiasm was any gauge at the show, Kalinsky is right. A two-hour open-bar reception, along with a silent and live auction, worked the crowd to a fever pitch by the time the first model hit the runway. Guests rose to their feet, hooting and hollering for looks they liked, such as dramatic evening gowns and fantasy shoes.
In a front-row seat, Brigette Paraham of Atlanta is a luxury consumer who also loves a bargain. She shops Jeffrey more for unique shoes and clothes than big-name designers. While tempted by much of what she saw on the runway, she confessed that she bought her green three-piece pantsuit by Louis Féraud at T.J. Maxx for $300.
The event raised more than $250,000, compared with $205,000 last year. Designers stepped up to the plate, with $10,000 contributions from Jil Sander and Gucci and $5,000 from Dolce & Gabbana.