Anticipated like no other fashion or philanthropic event in the Metroplex, the annual gala of the Dallas chapter of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) presents a seated dinner, over-the-top runway show, and one-of-a-kind, celebrity-designed jackets, auctioned to a crowd of our city’s most stylish guests.
Formed in 1984, DIFFA’s signature fundraising event debuted in 1989. Marking its silver anniversary, House of DIFFA No. 25 took place Saturday, March 7, 2015, at downtown’s posh Omni Hotel. The evening promised to raise the bar on this most glamorous occasion, while raising funds for a cause of utmost importance.
Front of mind, always, is DIFFA’s mission to support the fight against HIV/AIDS “by drawing on the contributions of world-renowned creative and corporate leaders representing all branches of the design related industries.”
Following years of DIFFA coverage, we at DFW Style Daily took a very unique angle on this milestone anniversary. From back stage to center stage, we asked volunteers, guests, performers, models, media, and more, to describe their personal impressions of House of DIFFA in a single word. Read on to learn more about the show, its significance, and the legacy of DIFFA Dallas, inspired by their words of wisdom.
fashion: First, in a word, fashion is the motivator, magnetic attractor, and great equalizer of this magnificent event. There is a head-turning look, and a covetable collectible, for each and every taste.
In addition to the styles which walk the runway at House of DIFFA’s annual fashion show, celebrity-designed jackets are auctioned for the cause. This year’s outstanding outerwear was contributed by Altuzarra, Billy Reid, Diane von Furstenberg, Escada, Armani, Marc Jacobs, Vince, Dallas’ own Abi Ferrin, Michael Faircloth, and Geoffrey Henning, and many more. Like sartorial sentries, these creations greeted guests as they entered the Omni Hotel.
philanthropy: This fashion is coupled with an important function, backed by people of purpose. This milestone effort was helmed by Event Chairman Chuck Steelman, Honorary Chairs Anne and Steve Stodghill, Board President Clint Bradley, and Co-Creative Directors Rhonda Sargent Chambers of RSC Show Productions and Brian Brothers of Planet Productions.
Counting down the moments to the House of DIFFA No. 25 runway show, anticipation built through heartfelt words from Steelman and HGTV’s Monica Pedersen (pictured above), among other distinguished speakers. Pederson’s talk touched each guest, as she recounted the story of her own sister’s diagnosis with HIV, later progressing to AIDS. The television personality credited those giving money to research and awareness as the reason why her sister was able to live longer, to see her get married, before she eventually passed away.
Steelman then expressed sincere thanks on behalf of the organization. He proclaimed, “Everyone who bought a ticket, sponsored a table, volunteered, or donated to the cause, made a DIFFA-Rence!”
glamour: As the house lights dimmed, the first of some 150 V.I.P.’s, models, celebrities, and performers then took to the stage. Of the production, themed ‘Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow,’ Co-Creative Director Rhonda Sargent Chambers (pictured above) details: “House of DIFFA No. 25 was our dream show! We wanted to begin with an opening with heart; a video showing the DIFFA Dallas Collection history was a testament to strong local roots. We then showcased the amazing talent in North Texas, and honored every guest with a little history of pop culture icons from Yesterday. We incorporated iconic moments in fashion and music, from 1988 – 2014.
“Then, our Today scenes featured fabulous current modern designs by Traffic LA at The Joule Hotel. Lastly, our Tomorrow scene was over the top! Fantasy highlights included dance, costume, beauty, hair, makeup, music, and talent.”
creativity: A concerted creative effort was at the core of House of DIFFA No. 25, over six months in the making. In addition to the aforementioned dynamic duo of Co-Creative Directors Rhonda Sargent Chambers and Brian Brothers, Makeup Director L.B. Rosser, Hair Director Ryan Chambers, Body Art Model Coordinator Willie Johnson III, and Costume Director Doug Voisin brought life to the show’s central themes.
As Hair Director Chambers so eloquently explains, “There are precious few opportunities in our city to really go ‘all out’ and create…within the confines of a fashion show. DIFFA is truly unique, and it’s truly a team effort where magic can happen. We are the sum of all our parts.”
love: House of DIFFA brings people together, indeed, like no other event in Dallas. Guests of all ages, races, religions, and political views gather for this one night in unity for a cause, and celebration of how far we’ve come. We at DFW Style Daily look forward to this DIFFA celebration each year, wherein we mesh like family with our neighbors, leaving all differences at the front door. It’s definitely a beautiful thing to witness.
This year, the inclusion of performances of some of the past decades’ most irresistible hits elevated this spirit of togetherness to new heights. Crowd favorites by Madonna, RuPaul, MC Hammer, No Doubt, and Miley Cyrus brought everyone to their feet, dancing in the aisles and singing along with the music.
community: Extending this sense of togetherness to our community as a whole, DIFFA Dallas has granted, to date, more than $6 million to over 25 frontline AIDS Service Organizations in North Texas. This equals service to over 23,000 children, women, and men, in over 30 North Texas counties, who are living with or are affected by AIDS.
powerful: There is power in these numbers, making DIFFA Dallas the largest and most successful chapter of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Of this year’s signature fundraising event, Steelman says, “I think House of DIFFA No. 25 will be one of the most historic DIFFA shows ever. The event was a great reminder of the impact that DIFFA Dallas has had in the fight against AIDS.”
dedication: By the numbers, some 250 volunteers, representing countless volunteer hours, worked tirelessly on this year’s House of DIFFA No. 25 production. They included community activists, family members, and caring souls, all dedicated to the cause. What’s more, an astounding 1,500-plus guests attended the event, showing their support through ticket sales and auction bids.
awareness: According to Dallas County Health and Human Services, per the last official profile for HIV statistics conducted in 2013, an estimated 15,500 people in Dallas County were living with HIV. This figure represented a 69% increase since 2003. Case rates remain disproportionately higher in African Americans, similar to trends observed in larger U.S. urban areas.
In 2013, 60% of new diagnoses in Dallas County were in patients under the age of 35. Dallas County leads the state of Texas in new HIV rates, with African-American women accounting for the majority of new HIV cases every year. We draw hope for the future, however, from the fact that the number of new HIV diagnosis in Dallas has decreased by 28% since 2003.
heroes: Each of the aforementioned leaders, volunteers, professionals, performers, artists, and caring community members is a hero. We are proud to honor these heroes today, and everyone at DFW Style Daily salutes DIFFA Dallas on a sensational silver anniversary.