By Irene Lacher Posted December 4, 2009, 5:53 PM EST
The media may be predicting sluggish sales this holiday season, but Thursday’s opening night of Divine Design 2009—the West Coast’s largest retail fund-raiser—was bursting at the seams with eager shoppers. The hefty turnout was fueled by organizers’ new push to promote the Project Angel Food benefit on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, resulting in $20,000 more in opening night sales than last year.
“It’s extraordinary in this economy,” said Jeff Valenson, co-director of the event's home marketplace, who has overseen the benefit's decor since it moved to the shuttered Robinson’s-May Department Store site in Beverly Hills five years ago.
The large turnout at the 17th annual Divine Design created some glitches—parking filled up early in the evening and capacity crowds led to lines throughout the night. Also, the dinner gala celebrating Project Angel Food’s 20th anniversary at the Beverly Hilton next door ended later than expected, at nearly 10 p.m. That would have left those guests only an hour to shop before the marketplace’s scheduled closing time, so organizers kept cash registers ringing until midnight.
“It was an amazing turnout for the organization,” said event producer Marissa Mills of Style Firm, which worked with Project Angel Food C.E.O. Margaret Steele and the event committee. “It’s an amazing problem to have.”
The gala honored Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, Council of Fashion Designers of America executive director Steven Kolb, and the late interior designer Dorothy Kneedler Lawenda. But the marquee honoree was Barbie, who was crowned Divine Design 2009 Fashion Icon.
The dinner’s showpiece was a Barbie extravaganza introduced by celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and produced by sponsor Mattel. It included film clips from the 50-year-old doll’s appearance at New York Fashion Week in February as well as a live runway show of specially commissioned Barbie-pink fashions by students at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and mostly L.A.-based designers like BCBG Max Azria and Juicy Couture. Barbie pink also cloaked areas flanking the marketplace entrance, where clothing, notebooks, and collectible dolls were on sale and display windows showcased doll-size versions of the F.I.D.M. students’ fashions.
Outside Barbie-land, organizers used a palette of blue (for Project Angel Food’s logo), black, and white for signage, tablecloths, and vases, which held white chrysanthemums and pink peonies for a pop of color. The fashion and home decor marketplace continues through Monday, with discounts increasing each day.