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Designers’ Broadway-themed picnic baskets raise $57K in auction for DIFFA’s fight against AIDS

Cast of New York designers takes a turn towards the theatrical in support of design community’s fight against AIDS

“The creative community has lost so, so many brilliant, creative people to the AIDS epidemic… an entire generation of arts and design, and the New York theater community was hit extremely hard. It only seems right to use creativity, beauty, and camaraderie to honor them while also simultaneously celebrating the Broadway world they populated,” reflected designer Patrick J. Hamilton.

Hamilton joined twenty-two other designers like Lo Chen and Vanessa Deleon, manufacturers like Knoll and Hunter Douglas, and top firms like Gensler and Rockwell Group, for a memorable Broadway-inspired auction this fall. The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) partnered up with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to help raise money to support organizations working to fight the spread of AIDS and HIV. The organizations hosted a chic picnic bash for 300 industry guests, and a cast of designers joined forces with sponsors to create decorative picnic baskets, each themed around musical theater. Full of treats like tickets to see hit Broadway shows, interior design accents and Champagne bottles, each take on a traditional picnic basket was up for auction to support the important cause. 

Co-chair David Rockwell, founder of Rockwell Group, addressed the crowd before the bidding began. The philanthropic Rockwell, who plays an active role in supporting both DIFFA and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, said it’s been his ultimate “fantasy” to see the two organizations join together for events like this. “I’m very grateful that this worked out. Those are my two great passions… They’re such amazingly creative industries, and I think we often don’t think about how just making one gesture can really help, and it’s just something I’m in awe of, being part of this creative industry. I want to thank every designer who participated.” Altogether, the evening helped raise over $57,000 to support DIFFA’s longtime mission, marking the most successful edition to date. Keep scrolling to see each designer’s imaginative tribute to shows like Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, ChicagoDear Evan Hansen, The Lion King and Kinky Boots. 

Mean Girls

For this year’s Picnic By Design, Hunter Douglas collaborated with designer Patrick J. Hamilton, of Patrick James Hamilton Designs, who reimagined a pop-y and bright Mean Girls-themed basket that had the crowd seeing pink.


NPZ Style & Décor gave guests “the old razzle dazzle” with this Chicago-themed basket which pays homage to the 1920s Prohibition days of speakeasies, jazz and women’s liberation.

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

BKSK honored the Queen of Disco with a glammed-up presentation featuring a signed playbill and the original cast recording from Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, tickets to the show plus backstage passes, Riedel stemless champagne flutes, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose, Kate Spade place settings and a faux sheepskin rug.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Holly Golightly’s affection for Tiffany & Co. was celebrated in a beautiful turquoise and white Breakfast at Tiffany’s picnic basket by Vanessa Deleon Associates. It featured a vintage Tiffany’s sterling silver necklace, a vintage luggage piece, Tiffany’s cheeky bone china “paper” cups, Champagne bottles and flutes, and of course, a couple boxes of Cracker Jacks.

Kinky Boots

If Patrick J. Hamilton has us seeing chic cafeterias through rose-tinted glasses, then this bedazzled Kinky Boots basket by Knoll and Gensler had us seeing red with beautiful, textural layers of red accents. The lucky winner was treated to two tickets to see the show, sunglasses, glittery sandals, sun hats, bottles of Rose, a red upholstered stool and more. 

The Secret Life of Bees

Upcoming musical, The Secret Lives of Bees, got the sweet treatment in a basket by artisanal food and craft spirits purveyor Catskills Provisions. The spread includes the company’s wildflower honey, raw honeycomb, honey Rye whiskey, chocolate honey and honey whiskey truffles, organic bee napkins, tickets to see the show, and a paperback copy of the book that inspired the musical.

Dear Evan Hansen

Michele Alfano Design gave guests a taste of Dear Evan Hansen with a “set design” that played off the lead’s striped shirt complemented by a playbill signed by the cast, Eileen Fisher napkins, CB2 plates, a blanket and settings custom made of Kravet fabric, Home Goa cutlery and a one night hotel stay in Times Square.

Vintage Broadway

A tribute to vintage Broadway with a basket by Studio TK, Teknion and LUUM with Mancini Duffy loaded with vintage playbills, fine glassware and decorative postcards.

Mamma Mia!

McCory Interiors’ Mamma Mia-themed Aegean-hued basket included treats like a bottle of Ouzo, Boutari wine, olive tapenade, a marble mortar and pestle, cookbooks, a cast recording and gift cards to see any Broadway musical.


The story of Annie as told by Ted Moudis, who added a red blanket, white linen napkins rings, plates, Redhead wine, red macaroons, roses and passes for backstage tours at Radio City Music Hall to this picnic spread.  


Knoll and HWL International teamed up to create a tribute to the iconic New York establishment, Sardi’s, and even included a $150 gift card to the famous midtown theater district restaurant.

Times Square

Lo Chen created a neat time capsule with an acrylic box decorated with semi-transparent collages of Times Square and Broadway show theme with lighting that mimics the neon lights of the marquis.


Inspired by Tootsie, Rockwell Group repurposed a stage prop “apple box” into a picnic basket, then wrapped it in watercolor-rendered Manhattan skyline images taken from the set of the show, and filled it with cheese, beer and rose.

Retro Broadway

Jes Gordon’s basket is a retro homage to musicals on Broadway and draws inspiration from childhood memories she shared in the theater with her father. It includes a Barbra Streisand cock, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and champagne flutes, retro candy, tickets to see Beautiful and a record player with Broadway vinyls.


Matouk brought guests under the sea with a SpongeBob basket that showed off Matouk’s new azure-colored Nikita bath rug and other towels plus Ocean Breeze soaps and candles next to a pineapple and starfish (a nod to the show’s character Patrick).


Tyler Wisler brought the crowd to “a whole new world” with an Aladdin-themed basket with a magic carpet, bedazzled lamp and lantern.


Inspired by Wicked, Knoll and STUDIOS Architecture took on a witchy theme in their basket which included two orchestra seats to see the show, presented inside a Knoll leather folder, along with treats from Fat Witch bakery, flameless candles and a Knoll pillow.

Broadway Cares

WUNO partnered up with Broadway Cares to create a tribute to the extravagant costumes and set design from the Ziegfeld Follies. The bidder took home a 2018 Tony playbill, Broadway ornaments featuring classic chows, and VIP tickets to several Broadway Cares events.


Kravet took inspiration from Frozen and used a wintery color palette to evoke a glacial cool world of wonder with details like a quartz votive, soft gray and blue patterned cushions, a snowflake-shaped candleholder, plus tickets to see the show.

South Pacific 

Peter Valcarcel dreamed up a South Pacific-style picnic with chopsticks finished with leather-covered handles, hand-painted plates, printed throws and pillows, and tall tumblers.

The Lion King

Mikel Welch’s African-themed basket based on The Lion King, included a beautifully patterned woven basket stuffed with edible delicacies, beaded accents, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and tickets to see the hit musical.

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