ATLANTA — The Savannah College of Art and Design goes for the big statement and Etoile Gala, the glittery benefit kickoff to its SCAD Style week, was no exception.

The event at SCAD’s year-old campus here honored trendsetters in fashion, retail, accessories design and furniture, said president Paula Wallace.

About 400 people came for cocktails, tours, a sit-down dinner, a fashion show and awards ceremony on May 20. The $300-a-plate event was to benefit SCAD’s Lacoste, France, campus.

Jeffrey Kalinsky, who carefully cultivated his chic Atlanta customer base before opening his New York store, said he planned to present SCAD student designs on a runway at Fashion Cares, the annual August fund-raiser, to be held this year in a tent at Phipps Plaza here.

Wallace described SCAD graduate Santiago Gonzalez, president of the Nancy Gonzalez handbags and accessories line, as “our claim to fame.” In 1997, Gonzalez launched U.S. sales for the Colombian company started by his mother, growing the firm from 16 handbags in the first collection to 300 styles for fall 2006.

Roopal Patel, senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, who attended the event with Gonzalez, credited him with adding color, texture and fashion elements, along with opening price points that brought a broader audience to alligator and crocodile bags.

“It used to be an older lady buying an investment piece, but we’ve reinterpreted in an irreverent way,” said Gonzalez, who said fall trends would move away from slouchy shoulder styles to more structured clutches and totes.

Also honored were hip-hop moguls and philanthropists Michael and Judy Mauldin, who are launching Mauldin Apparel, a line of sportswear, denim, vintage T-shirts and hats. The holiday 2006 debut collection will offer men’s and women’s apparel, and add more women’s for spring 2007.

Michael Mauldin, a 30-year veteran in the entertainment industry and father of rapper-producer-songwriter Jermaine Dupri, said rather than the obvious celebrity and hip-hop references, the line is inspired by his family roots in the mountains of Murphy, N.C.

“My father was a dirt-track race car driver, moonshine hauler,” he said. “The line is a play on the racy fast life of the prohibition era.”

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

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