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By Design | FASHION / SENSE OF STYLE

Fashion Photogs Leave a Lasting Impression

September 12, 1996|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

Feigning an interest in art or fashion is sometimes a clever way for a serious charity to put a little pizazz into an evening of fund-raising. But in the case of the Permanent Charities of the Entertainment Industries' Education Fund, Teach for America and the California State Summer School for the Arts, calling a fabulous dinner for 1,200 set up under sparkling lights on the 400 block of Rodeo Drive "A Tribute to Style" was entirely appropriate. CSSSA is a special training and scholarship program for high school students aspiring to careers in the arts and entertainment industries.

Lexus underwrote the evening (to the tune of $550,000), so that all funds from ticket sales, the auction of a car and eight portfolios of fashion photographs went to the charities. The prices fetched by the pictures, which represented a 30-year retrospective of work from the pages of Italian Vogue and its brother, L'Uomo Vogue, demonstrated the increasing recognition of fashion imagery as an art form. The winning bid for Peter Lindbergh's photos was $25,000.

Herb Ritts, speaking of fellow photographers Steven Meisel, Ellen Von Unwerth, Bruce Weber, Michel Comte, Albert Watson and Debra Turbeville, said, "We all started working with [Vogue Italia Editor] Franca Sozzani in the early '80s. Italian Vogue allows you total artistic license. It's more about interesting photographs than selling clothes. With that kind of approach, you can do your best work and the photographs live on." (The Boston Museum of Fine Arts will open a Ritts retrospective later this year.)

Fat copies of Vogue Italia and L'Uomo Vogue have been free to anyone strong enough to lug them away from most Rodeo Drive boutiques this month. The magazines devoted their September issues to L.A., including everything from striking portraits of stars to tips on hot coffee bars, cool restaurants and hip bookstores. The photographs will continue to be displayed in 40 shop windows on the street until Sept. 22.

When the invitation to a big deal of an evening doesn't specify black tie, there's always some sartorial confusion. Actress Sharon Lawrence, who'd worn a borrowed Chanel to the Emmys the night before, came in her own BCBG shirt and pants. Designer Mark Eisen's black T-shirt and jeans were from a different planet than Donatella Versace's leopard-spotted gown.

Not only did Rita Wilson look just right in a Dolce & Gabbana white satin sheath and matching coat printed with ripe red cherries, but few other occasions would have been as perfect for the outfit, inspired by '50s Italian movie stars.

Others who stood out in a crowd that included studio executives, artists, celebrity lawyers and accountants, etc., were Sela Ward, in a black Gucci tunic and pants; Demi Moore, her shorn head only slightly grown in; and Angela Bassett, in Escada navy lace, as usual.

Sharon Stone introduced Placido Domingo, who after singing a number, lectured the assembled on exposing their children to classical music. Teach America, which sends recent college graduates into underfunded urban and rural public schools, has the opportunity to do that.

"I'm sure everyone thinks we're all here because four powerful Hollywood wives twisted our arms," Arnold Schwarzenegger said, opening the program with his wife, Maria Shriver. The aforementioned wives were event co-chairs Ruth Bloom, Kelly Chapman, Susan Dolgen and Wendy Goldberg.

No exact tally yet, but organizers say the event raised more than $1 million.

* Sense of Style appears Thursdays in Life & Style.

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