Today’s client is more inclined to buy that costly evening gown, especially when she already has more than she could really wear, if she knew that part of the proceeds would go to charity.
By Laz More
Fashion’s long held commitment to philanthropy is well documented. An industry that was considered frivolous and elitist, has recognized that part of its business model has to include becoming cultural actors in a global stage. Fashion designers have achieved in the last 20 years a celebrity status that at times overcast that of the famous people they dress. This avatar contributes to building, and even leading communities of like-minded individuals united under common philanthropic principles. This cultural niche is in reality, their client base.
Today’s savvy fashion client is more aware of how brands allocate their profits. This client is more inclined to buy that costly evening gown, especially when she already has more than she could really wear, if she knew that part of the proceeds would go to charity. It is an approach to cure shopper’s remorse. Frugality is still a virtue, even in moneyed circles, where real luxury is usually unseen. Many do not want to be seen as wasteful or irresponsible.
All fashion brands today include some form of charitable giving. Lending your name to a cause celebre that your fans endorse makes good marketing. But many designers show real concern for the state of the world, and recognize their own power to make a difference in areas that affect them. It could be a personal experience, an epiphany, a bout with disease (their own or a relative’s) or a philosophical commitment to fairness. The fact is that giving back has never been more important for the world of fashion’s zeitgeist, as evidenced in the following examples.
After the death of her husband, Stephan Weiss to cancer in 2001, Donna Karan turned her attention to funding research of holistic treatments in cancer care for both the patient and the caregiver. She founded the Urban Zen Foundation with the mission to “create, connect and collaborate to raise awareness and inspire change in the areas of well being, preserving cultures and empowering children in mind, body and spirit”. The work of the organization is multifold. Through carefully engineered initiatives, Urban Zen funds solutions in health care and cultural identity. They have implemented a program to integrate holistic principles and traditional eastern treatments into modern Western treatments for cancer. The aim is to treat the patient with dignity, while battling the deadly disease. The organization’s cultural programs have brought attention and resources to the plight of the Haitians after the devastating earthquake that destroy the already impoverished Caribbean nation. Through art exhibits around the world, the program has raised awareness and funds for the reconstruction efforts for the country and the soul of the Haitian people.
1. DONNA KARAN. / Photo: Neilson Barnard. © 2012 Getty Images.
2. MICHAEL KORS. / Photo: Frazer Harrison. © 2011 Getty Images.
Michael Kors is another big supporter of breast cancer awareness, but his longstanding relationship with Gods Love We Deliver is at the core of the designer’s heart. Kors has been involved with the organization for more than 20 years. God’s Love We Deliver delivers meals, 7 days a week, to people living with HIV / AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses (and to their care givers), when they are unable to cook or shop for themselves. In 2011, Kors gifted $5 million to the expansion campaign to erect a new building that would double the organization's capacity to prepare and deliver more than two million meals a year.
Ralph Lauren’s approach to philanthropy is exemplified by the Pink Pony Fund of the Ralph Lauren Foundation. Its mission is to “ to reduce disparities in cancer care in medically under served communities and ensure that treatment is available at an earlier, more curable stage”. Again, in the case of Lauren, his interest in cancer research was detonated after his close friend, Nina Hyde, fashion editor at the Washington Post, was diagnosed with cancer over 20 years ago. He has designed a collection of products for the Pink Pony campaign. Ten percent of the sale of these products is allocated to the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, which funds the only outpatient facility of its kind in Harlem and provides treatment for a wide range of cancers in this under served community.
1. RALPH LAUREN. / Photo: Frazer Harrison. © 2012 Getty Images.
2. TOMMY HILFIGER. / Photo: Peter Michael Dills. © 2012 Getty Images.
Georgina Chapman is perhaps the most beautiful fashion designer ever. But her beauty is not only skin-deep. The co-founder of Marchesa is happiest when wearing her heart on her sleeves. Her marriage to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein started with an act of love unrelated to their love for each other. In lieu of wedding presents, the couple that has it all, collected donations for their Rose Home, not their mansion in Connecticut, but a residence for 50 girls in New Delhi that their trust created from scratch. Chapman’s British family has longtime ties to India, and the country is very dear to the designer. The couple has legal guardianship of the girls, who are usually found homeless, in train stations or in the streets of Delhi. Rose House cares and educated the girls cementing their opportunities of a better life.
For Tommy Hilfiger, giving back is a promise he made to himself before he attained success as the man who reinvented the Ivy Style for a new global audience. He and wife Dee have been very involved in Autism care and research. They each are parents of a child with Autism. Recently the designer has partnered with Millennium Promise, an organization dedicated to the eradication of extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease within our lifetime. Their mission is to “to provide the operational platform and resource mobilization for the Millennium Villages Project, which empowers communities to lift themselves out of extreme poverty”.
Whether intimate, personal stories, or corporate responsibility, the reasons that drive the fashion world to share their blessings and resources with the less fortunate, are myriad. No one can deny that giving back to those in need is the real treasure, and it is not reserved for celebrities. One-way to start feeling like a conscious fashionista, is to empty your fashion surplus by selling your vintage through howtospendit.com. Proceeds of each sale go to your favorite charity. You can also give a little to any or all of the aforementioned charities. I did, and I feel great. At the end of the day, we can all be philanthropists. ■
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