Star-studded D.C. gala to aid breast cancer research Fashion and politics ally to raise awareness, funds


WASHINGTON -- All week, trunks arrived from New York slated for unpacking at the National Building Museum.

Tissue and tape, gaggles of models such as Kate Moss and Amber Valetta, mounds of accessories and setup crews were a thunderous advance for the arrival of such designers as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Isaac Mizrahi, Linda Allard and Oscar de la Renta.

More than $1 million in clothing was shipped from Seventh Avenue in New York City to a city not usually known for its fashion acumen.

But in an unusual alliance of fashion and politics, Seventh Avenue has moved off its usual turf and embraced the rubber-chicken crowd here in a push to give the danger of breast cancer a higher profile.

Come Tuesday, the elegant but cavernous museum will be transformed into "Super Sale 1996," a shopping extravaganza-cum-gala dinner to benefit breast cancer research.

Britain's Princess Diana is honorary chairwoman; first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the host of a breakfast that morning.

More than 1,100 guests, from Gen. Colin L. Powell and Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor to Laura D'Andrea Tyson, President Clinton's top economic adviser, and Elizabeth Dole, wife of GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole, are expected for the gala and shopping Tuesday night.

About 800 people paid $500 each for the dinner, while 300 paid $150 to join them for dessert.

On Friday and Saturday, the public, for $15, can have a crack at purchasing the clothing donated by designers for the occasion.

"Nothing this major has ever been done for breast cancer here before, so we think it will raise awareness," said Lauren, who organized the event with Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue magazine, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Washington Post.

All proceeds will benefit Georgetown University's Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research.

Hyde, a fashion writer for the Washington Post who died of breast cancer in 1990, was a friend of Lauren's.

"I made a commitment to her," said Lauren, who began his personal fund-raising efforts in 1989 with a cocktail party at Washington's Carlyle Hotel and raised nearly $1 million.

"That was the beginning," he said. "Then six months ago, Anna said she'd like to do something really big in Washington and get the whole fashion world in on it.

"Since this is home base for the center, we thought the exposure would be really great and special."

Wintour said they faced some resistance: "Some people said you're never going to raise any money down there. But across the board, everyone has completely responded, and we're completely sold out.

"We've got celebrities coming down. Designers have been extraordinarily generous."

The opening night gala, "A Salute to American Fashion," is being underwritten by Lauren and Vogue, and tables are selling for $10,000 to $25,000 each, which is in addition to the individual's cost.

"We've all written big checks," said Paul Wilmot, vice president of public relations for Conde Nast.

"But what starts with the bank account ends with personal involvement."

A community that poured out its sorrow over AIDS in high-profile charity events, in part because many of its creative talents were stricken by the disease, has increasingly turned its attention to breast cancer.

"Ten years ago, breast cancer was just as important an issue [as AIDS], but people wouldn't talk about it," said Fern Mallis, executive director of the New York-based Council of Fashion Designers of America. "The breast cancer lobby took a lot of cues and learned a lot from the AIDS messengers and fund-raisers."

"A lot of folks are realizing that breast cancer is an important issue for women, and women are their main customers," said Jane Reese-Coulbourne, vice president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, composed of 270 groups.

Pub Date: 9/22/96

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