By Irene Lacher Posted December 8, 2008, 6:13 PM EST
Perhaps the president-elect should have taken note of the doings at Thursday evening's Divine Design opening gala at the former Robinsons-May Department Store in Beverly Hills. Judging from the swarms of people shopping for discounted fashion, beauty, and home items, organizers have hit upon the perfect economic stimulus package: pairing an open bar serving Nuvo sparkling liqueur cosmopolitans with a lack of guilt for whipping out one's credit card. After all, the money went to Project Angel Food, which delivers meals to people with life-threatening illnesses. As signs around the venue said, “Sales = Food.”
Indeed, the benefit, launched in 1991 to help feed the surge of people with HIV/AIDS, is the West Coast's largest shopping fund-raiser, spread across a long weekend of deepening discounts. Since the first sale at the Pacific Design Center, it has always been about shopping for style; this year's event was rather stylish itself. Working with Project Angel Food C.E.O. Margaret Steele and event producer Style Firm, longtime board member and interior designer Jeff Valenson coordinated decor and advertising materials in a striking palette of black, white, and red—“a fresh, elegant yet fun color scheme,” said Valenson, who was assisted by fellow board member Peter Gurski. “We were going to do an ad push this year, unlike in the past. It had to be eye-catching and unusual.”
The Cimarron Group donated its services designing graphics for ads and signage, which featured red lettering bordered with black-and-white drawings of glasses, watches, shoes, and the like.
The evening began at the marketplace, where guests registered at tables topped with black cloths, red rose petals, and styrofoam heads sporting wigs made from dried flowers and berries donated by Tic-Tock Couture Florals. Store windows and displays were decorated with gift boxes tucked in red-and-white paper, silvery mesh, and potted white calla lilies and orchids flecked with fuschia.
At the entrance to the awards dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel next door, models posed in black wigs adorned with eyeglasses and other fanciful touches. Red uplighting added drama to the room while guests noshed on salads with dates and walnuts and chicken stuffed with wild rice. Honoree Tadashi Shoji oversaw a fashion show of his sculptural dresses. Also recognized were filmmaker David Furnish and Jada Pinkett Smith, who surprised organizers by sending her daughter, Willow, to accept her award.