Sixth Annual Buy Design Fund-Raiser Draws Guests With Social Media Campaign, Promises of Swag

To promote its annual Buy Design fund-raiser, Windfall used a social media campaign—including a Barbarella-inspired character on Twitter—to draw guests to the fashion-focused, space-themed event.

By Erin Letson April 21, 2009, 3:33 PM EDT

Spotlights shone on a space suit at the entrance to the Fermenting Cellar.

Photo: Stephanie Cloutier for BizBash

Windfall Clothing Service's Buy Design 6: In Space Benefit
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In a time of economic uncertainty, Windfall Clothing Service event manager Kelly Carmichael wanted to emphasize the return on investment for guests attending (or considering attending) the clothing bank’s “Buy Design 6: In Space” fund-raiser, held Saturday at the Fermenting Cellar. “We really wanted people to know it was worth it to come,” said Carmichael, who worked with Faulhaber PR to launch a social media campaign and Web site promoting the benefit’s purpose and perks.

“Facebook and Twitter are great ways to get a dialogue going with people about the event and our organization, which is especially important in times like these,” Carmichael said. The face of the Twitter campaign, BuyBarella, a character inspired by the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella, tweeted about everything from outfit ideas for the space-themed event to hints about the night’s hors d’oeuvres (like herb-crusted lamb chops), and the gift bag (stuffed with full-size beauty products from sponsor Proctor & Gamble). BuyBarella's 477 Twitter followers had a chance to win one of three sets of tickets to the benefit.

Another tweeted-about attraction at the event—which drew 450 guests—was the newly added Beauty Lab. For $20, guests could shop for three beauty items with different price points from brands such as Smashbox, L’Oréal, and Hugo Boss. Carmichael said the Beauty Lab allowed guests who might not have the cash to bid in the 150-item silent auction to still walk away with goods. “We really wanted to make sure there was something for everyone,” she said.

As in years past, the event committee—headed by co-chairs Andrew Sardone, Tralee Pearce, and Jill Richardson—chose a time period as inspiration for the theme and decor. This year, Sardone said the space theme was inspired by the “pop future” portrayed in films like Barbarella and 2001: A Space Odyssey. A rocket constructed from a sonotube concrete form, plywood, and manila paper decorated the venue’s entrance, and planet-like balloons hung over the bar and dance floor, where the Galactic Go-Gos performed twice.

With designers such as Philip Sparks in attendance, Fashion File’s Adrian Mainella as host, and auction items from local designers Comrags and Jenny Bird, the event was geared toward a style-savvy crowd. “Buy Design’s roots are really in the fashion and design industry in Toronto, so we incorporate elements of fashion into the event,” said Sardone, referencing auction items and fashion illustrator Danielle Meder's work on the ad campaign.

Carmichael said she felt fortunate to have all last year’s corporate supporters—including platinum sponsor Stonegate—return for Buy Design 6. Additional sponsors included TD Bank Financial Group, BMO Financial Group, Alterna Savings, Ontario Credit Union Charitable Foundation, Davis + Henderson, Mill St. Brewery, XOXO Wine, Skyy Vodka, Evian, Fashion Magazine, Now, The Globe and Mail, blogTO, and She Does the City. The event raised more than $93,000 for the organization.

Correction: The story has been changed to reflect the amount the benefit grossed rather than netted.

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