Insider: Varvatos’ Charity Bash… Tamara Helms ‘Fashion Fringe’…

Benefit Bash
Tough economic times are impacting John Varvatos’ business, but he’s optimistic about the year ahead — and even hinted about a new store opening when Insider caught up with him at the John Varvatos 7th Annual Stuart House Benefit in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by Converse. “I’d be lying if I said [the economy] isn’t having an effect on us,” he said. “February was the first month we’ve seen a negative impact on sales, but March seems to be going positive again.” But it was hard to be glum in the party atmosphere, which included “Create Your Own Converse” and “Decorate Your Own Cupcake” tables, and a performance by bearded rockers ZZ Top. Among the many items up for silent auction was a size 23 Dunkman high-top autographed by Shaquille O’Neal that sold for a whopping $1,250. In all, the event, hosted by Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick (above), raised $350,000 for the Stuart House Rape Treatment Center.

Rising Stars
Tamara Mellon is committed to nurturing young British design talent. The Jimmy Choo founder and president is chairing “Fashion Fringe at Covent Garden Accessories 2009,” a contest for aspiring fashion designers. In mid-May, the winner will be awarded a six-month apprenticeship at Jimmy Choo that begins in June. Company CEO Josh Schulman will also serve on the judging panel of the ready-to-wear version, chaired by Donatella Versace. In true fashion style, the contest will kick off Tuesday with a glitzy soirée in South Kensington.

In Good Company
Melissa, the Brazilian shoemaker specializing in plastic sandals, is close to nabbing two more high-wattage designers for its successful collaboration project, which has already attracted Vivienne Westwood and architect Zaha Hadid, among others.

Online Invasion
The brutal economy might be obliterating luxury retail, but at least one high-end purveyor is still sitting pretty. Yoox Group, the upscale Milan-based e-commerce business, continues to post strong sales gains within its flagship site. The firm also is growing its new men’s business, Thecorner.com, and is planning eight new virtual stores this year. CEO Federico Marchetti said he was hoping to score his first French partner during Paris Fashion Week.

Remembering Jodi

The Fisher family is honoring the late Jodi Fisher, who died March 4, with a memorial fund. Donations can be sent to the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Leukemia Research Fund, Memorial Sloan Kettering Center; 1275 York Ave., Box 575; New York, N.Y., 10021. Attn: Dr. Stephen Nimer.


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