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Society / Fashion

Camels, Half Nude Male Models and a British Pop Star Make this Dallas Gala Legendary

At the House of DIFFA, Anything Wild and Fabulous Goes

BY // 05.16.17

It’s Saturday night and a camel is parked next to a Land Rover outside of the Omni Dallas Hotel. One of the rides has a sign plastered to its side, reading “Win Me,” while the other, two-humped mode of transport is surrounded by people in tuxes and gowns, all waiting their turn to take a photo. This pairing of the luxurious and the unexpected can only mean one thing: DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS).

The legendary, over-the-top fund-raising gala returned in extravagant force. Dubbed House of DIFFA: Arabesque, this year’s theme, presented by Headington Companies with its fashionable retailers and The Joule Hotel, drew inspiration from Mediterranean and Arabian cultures, with its own fantastical, quintessentially DIFFA spin.

As we ascended the Omni’s escalators, we were greeted by chiseled male models clad in leather pants, arm cuffs — and, well, little else. Perhaps this was to prime us for the surprises that lay ahead, of which there were plenty.

DIFFA Dallas’ jacket collection was up for the silent auction during cocktail hour, featuring donations from both local and national designers, including Alexander Wang, Carolina Herrera, and Moschino.

Outside the ballroom doors, a golden backdrop with Arabesque motifs and a belly dancer made a perfect photo-op, and hinted at the opulent decor within. Once cocktails concluded, we made our way into the ballroom and took our seats for the main event, while event chairman Sami Abboud, and DIFFA board chair Chuck Steelman kicked off the evening with a few comments.

Then, the first of many surprises: Natasha Bedingfield crashed the party. The British pop star gave an unexpected and joyful performance, strutting up and down the runway singing several of her own hits, plus a crowd-favorite cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

Holiday Gifting

  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss
  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Bond No 9 - Candle
  • Nocturne Studio
  • Casa di Lino

Another wow-moment came by way of a mightily successful Fund-a-Grand, which raised $150,000 in less than 10 minutes. Still, the real spectacle had yet to begin.

The fashion show — always a high point of DIFFA — started with a bang, showering rose petals on the first model as she made her dramatic entrance. Forty Five Ten, TenOverSix, and Traffic LA provided the whimsical and daring wardrobe, while the production team pulled out all the stops.

StyleCouncil members Gonzalo Bueno, Annika Cail, Justin (JC) Collins, Bill Corbellini, Caroline Kraddick, Suzi Ellis, Melissa Enriquez, Jenny Esping Kirtland, Faisal Halum, Lainie Kritser, Julian Leaver, Muffin Lemak, Josh Madans, Bina Palnitkar Patel, and Ann Sutherland made sure the fundraising and difference making never stopped on this wild night.

Brian Brothers of Planet Productions, Rhonda Sargent Chambers of RSC Productions, Densil Adams of D|A creative, and Jeffrey Horn of Triad Event Solutions outdid themselves with the show, which incorporated belly and contemporary dancing, an actual giant genie bottle, and horse-men. Yes, you read that right. There was a mention earlier that eve of “equestrian flare,” so that must’ve been it.

It was nothing short of what you’d expect from DIFFA, one of the largest HIV/AIDS fundraising organizations in North Texas, at their largest and most fabulous event of the year.

Who: Brian Bolke, Sami Abboud, Chuck Steelman, Nancy Rogers, Lainie Krister, Bryan Reeder, Sheridan Dietrich, Anne and Steve Stodghill, Carol Quist and Patrick Tichacek, Cearan Henley, Courtney Rider, Allan Knight, Scott Kehn, Cindy Khan, Robert Weatherly, Clint Bradley, Christie Whitten, Ann and David Sutherland, Jenifer Strauss, Debra Nelson, Vivian Lombardi, Gina Ginsburg, LeeAnne Locken, Graeme Ross, Lainie Krister, Jacob Bundick, Freddy Valderrama, Jason Oleniczak and Brittanie Buchanan Oleniczak, Shane Walker, Billy Fulmer, Ashley Warnick and Jessica Joyner.

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