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HIGHER CAUSE: Donna Karan appealed to a gathering of 150 customers at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco last Wednesday to not be self-conscious about buying luxury apparel in a down economy, but rather think of the number of people along fashion’s economic chain being supported by their purchases. Behind each garment, “there is an amazing depth of knowledge and wisdom,” said Karan, sitting next to Neiman’s fashion director Ken Downing, as the duo offered commentary during a fashion show of the designer’s fall collection, followed by a trunk show. “They are purchasing [garments] for a much-larger cause,” Karan said, listing pattern and garment makers, dyers, models, hair dressers, photographers and retail employees among those whose livelihoods are tied to fashion.