The Crystal Ball Kick-off

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The Crystal Ball Kickoff started with Colombian-born handbag designer, Nancy Gonzalez, was the evening’s special guest when Neiman Marcus hosted a kick-off party for DIFFA/Chicago’s (The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) upcoming Gala, The Crystal Ball Kick-off.

Neiman Marcus GM Wendy Krimins and Public Relations Manager Tina Koegel, along with Gala co-chairs, Frances Renk, Ron Leiserowitz and Mary Jo Fasan, began the party in the Zodiac Restaurant where guests schmoozed and noshed on light bites and cocktails while two gorgeous leggy models, in short, black dresses, worked the room using the colorful Nancy Gonzalez handbags as flirting props to chat up the guests at the Crystal Ball Kick-off.

The party moved to the first floor and DIFFA/Chicago board members and supporters modeled designs, paired with Gonzalez’ bags. Board member and Merchandise Manager for Neiman’s, Brigg Klein, emceed the show. The black and white combo continues to have staying power while floral prints and bright colors are a welcome trend for spring. The show closed with Co-chairs Mary Jo Fasan and Frances Renk modeling evening gowns: Mary Jo, in an Alice & Olivia black lace overlay tiered dress and Frances in a body-hugging silver Herve Leger which stole the show.

Guests continued to mingle and shop, check out the beautiful array of Gonzales bags. Handcrafted in her native Cali, Colombia by local artisans, the crocodile skin bags are known for their meticulous designs and distinctive craftsmanship. The buttery soft clutch was a popular purchase item and Nancy Gonzalez signed each one. Guests departed with a copy of Pamela Golbin’s book, filled with beautiful pictures of Gonzalez’ handbags.  As chief curator for the Fashion and Textiles collections at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Goblin is a leading expert in contemporary fashion with extensive historical knowledge of cultural and design issues at The Crystal Ball Kick-off.

At The Crystal Ball Kick-off guests also had the opportunity to pre-purchase Gala raffle tickets for Nancy Gonzalez bag and a piece of art by Chicago-based contemporary artist Rene Romero Schuler.

DIFFA/Chicago (The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) is a not-for-profit fundraising and grant-making foundation that distributes funds to Chicago area HIV/AIDS service agencies that provide direct service, preventative education and outreach to people who are HIV positive, living with AIDS or at risk for infection. Founded in 1984, DIFFA – which is headquartered in New York and has fifteen chapters around the country, has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities and granted more than $40 million to hundreds of AIDS service organizations nationwide. For more information on DIFFA/Chicago and the upcoming Gala, please visit

Photos of The Crystal Ball Kick-off by Robert Carl

About Margaret O'Connor

Margaret J. O’Connor is the founder/owner of MarCon Communications, a public relations and special events firm which handles the publicity and event needs for a diverse range of clients. She’s involved with numerous charities in Chicago and is active in its lifestyle and social scene. She grew up and was educated in Africa, Australia and America and holds degrees in marketing and finance from the University of Illinois. She is a contributing writer to many print and digital publications and her focus is lifestyle, culinary and nonprofit events. Read more from this author.