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 Fashion and Ethical Fashion
The fashion industry is having a dramatic impact on the environment and on the lives of people around the world, predominantly those in poverty. Fashion can be bucketed into two categories: fast and ethical. To the regular consumer in the United States or in Europe, it might be hard to know the difference between the two.

Negative Global Impacts of Fast Fashion

We are living in a world of fast fashion, a term Merriam-Webster defines as, “an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” Some of the large-scale fast fashion brands include H&M, Levis and Nike. With fashion trends changing quicker and fashion seasons getting shorter, cheap clothing is purposely being made poorly in order to not last.

With these big brands producing so much clothing at such a fast rate, there are more and more amounts of clothing going to thrift stores. Thrift stores can’t keep up either, though. What many don’t know is that about 40 percent of donated clothes end up getting baled up and sent to different countries overseas. In New York City, most donated clothes end up making their way to Africa.

Besides the overwhelming amount of tangible fabric leftovers, fast fashion is having a dramatic impact on the people who make our clothing. Garment workers are practically invisible, with 97 percent of our clothes being made overseas in developing countries.

Workers in the fashion industry are exploited; they receive extremely low wages while working in inadequate conditions. About 40 million people around the world (85 percent who are women) create clothes. In 2013, an eight-story garment factory called Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,135 people and injuring around 2,500. The average monthly income for a garment worker in Bangladesh is only 68 dollars.

Ethical Fashion is Gaining Visibility as a Solution

With such problematic issues surrounding the fashion industry, it is increasingly important consumers make responsible and sustainable purchases. Ethical fashion has gained popularity as many companies and organizations are adopting fair-trade and other responsible business practices.

The United Nations’ Ethical Fashion Initiative is just one of many such initiatives. Seeing fashion as a means for development, this initiative upholds that, “in all things, people need to come first.” This initiative also stresses the significance of “fair supply chains” and “dignified working conditions” that do not involve “any form of labor exploitation.”

There are many people who put work into creating the things we purchase. There is fast fashion and ethical fashion – it is our choice which one to support.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Ellen_DeGeneres
Famous YouTuber Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, and Talk Show Host Ellen DeGeneres have teamed up with Gap to release a new line of clothing for female empowerment.

The clothing line, called Gapkids x ED, encourages women of any age to feel strong and to voice their opinions. DeGeneres’ clothing brand, ED, has worked with Gap to combine comfy fabric and trendy styles with motivational quotes and symbols that inspire courage and confidence.

To show her support for the campaign, called GIRL, Sugg took a few minutes out of one of her vlog videos to flash one of her favorite t-shirts from the line. The British 25-year-old donned the GapKids x ED Energy Bolt Tee while introducing her involvement in GIRL to her nine million subscribers.

“This was something totally different, and I really, really loved this campaign. And I really wanted to get behind it and share it with you guys,” Sugg said in the video.

Expressing her backing for GIRL, DeGeneres said that one of the reasons she joined the campaign was because she shares some of the same ideals as Gap.

“Gap has always encouraged people to be themselves, and I love that they have the same values that I have; to be true to who you are and to wear cute pants,” DeGeneres said.

Not only do Gap and DeGeneres believe in sporting fashionable trousers, but they also think that self-image is a key step in female empowerment. DeGeneres said that she knows from experience that being true to yourself is important for growing and changing and that this campaign is demonstrating this notion by shining a light on real girls doing unique things.

GIRL focuses on three talented girls who each have something different to offer and demonstrate. The webpage for GIRL hosts three videos of each girl. Alexey, a young, bold and strong drummer, can be seen expertly beating her drum set. When asked what advice she has for girls, the little rocker gave a mature statement.

“Just follow what your heart says, and you can achieve it,” the 12-year-old said.

The other two girls featured by GIRL can also be seen in videos on the webpage. Torrae, a nine-year-old robotic hand technician, said that she is powerful because of her imagination. Twelve-year-old entrepreneur, Asia, started her own company when she was five and plans to start classes teaching kids her age about business.

Asia has big plans for her future. In her video, she proudly said that she wants to be a dancer, a singer, a rapper, a college graduate and the president of the United States.

Another girl representing the influence of personal voice is Sugg. With more than 700 million views on both of her YouTube channels combined, Sugg has been able to reach girls from all across the globe with her take on feminism in her fashion, beauty and life videos.

“So often, you can kind of get swept up in this world where you feel inferior or you feel like you should be doing something specific or you feel like you’re not doing something right. And it’s just a whole campaign basically to support girls to be who they are, and to be who they want to be. And I just think that that’s really amazing” Sugg said.

Like Sugg has done with her YouTube videos, DeGeneres said that this campaign has the ability to “break the internet.” GIRL encourages wearers of the brand to take selfies of themselves in the clothes and to share the pictures, as well as speak their views of feminism and equal rights.

DeGeneres added that there is also a collection by Gap x ED because they “believe in equal opportunity cuteness.”

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Gap 1, Gap 2, Paste Magazine, YouTube 1, YouTube 2
Photo: Google Images

Fighting_Poverty
Recently, Brethren Service Center hosted a uniquely motivated fashion show in New Windsor. At the Fair Fall Fashion Show, models proudly sported clothing from SERRV, a nonprofit organization fighting poverty by providing financial support and opportunities to artisans and farmers around the globe.

In 1944, SERRV became one of the first fair trade organizations in the United States. Since then, the organization has been fighting to create sustainable partnerships with small organizations and cooperatives.

The organization has formed long-term relationships with disadvantaged artisans and farmers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and even the U.S.

SERRV’s mission is to tackle the poverty problem by promoting fair trade business practices around the world. Leaders of the organization do not believe that artisans and farmers from developing countries are offered wages that allow them to support their families. They seek to improve international buyer-seller relationships.

SERRV has its own store inside the Brethren Service Center, where it sells not only clothing but also items such as baskets, tablecloths, jewelry, linens, and more from across the globe. On a regular basis, the organization sells these items to interested buyers at a fair price for the uniquely thoughtful handcrafted designs.

Terry Goodger, an employee at Material Resources, a warehouse that ships goods for the nonprofits at the Brethren Service Center, organized the fashion show with the help of Mary Ann Grossnickle, manager of the Zigler Hospitality Center, and Sarah Gschleidle, manager of the SERRV store.

Goodger explained, “I think it’s important to get the word out about what all happens here, and I think this is a great thing that they’re doing. It’s nice to make the community aware to help support it.” More so than raising community awareness, SERRV organizers hoped to get the word out to an international audience.

At the show, each model wore clothing made by artisans in developing countries, such as Peru, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Ecuador, and Cambodia. Organizers offered the artisans a wage calculator so that they could determine exactly how much they wanted to be paid for each item. They then paid the artisans upfront for purchased clothing.

The fashion show was part of a larger, daylong event hosted by a variety of nonprofit agencies, including Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, Material Resources Warehouse, IMA World Health and On Earth Peace. At the show, 11 volunteers modeled in order to help SERRV achieve its goals.

The unique clothing items beautifully embodied the cultures of faraway places, where the artisans’ hard work cannot always be financially appreciated. One example is a scarf by Asha Handicrafts of India, with design inspiration coming from traditional Pakistani rugs called kilims.

The fashion show was most certainly a success–raising awareness of organizations like SERRV, and also reminding attendees of the importance of the global anti-poverty fight. In the future, SERRV hopes to host more fashion shows and to sell even more clothing. More notably, it hopes to achieve an end to world poverty.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Carroll County Times 1, Carroll County Times 2, Serrv
Photo: Google Images

5 Fashion Designers Who Help Fight Poverty- BORGEN
For those who live in extreme poverty, clothing is a means of protection. For fashion designers, clothing is identity. Fashion is a way to show the world personality, demeanor, and creativity. Not only do these fashion designers help clothe those who cannot afford their products, but they also help save the lives of those in poverty.

These are five fashion designers who help fight poverty.

1. Michael Kors

In his signature all-black attire donning shades from his own brand, Michael Kors sits next to actress Kate Hudson, both flashing their stylish and opulent wristwatches. This advertisement was made to promote Kors’ charity and raise awareness for the charity’s cause.

Watch Hunger Stop is more than a play on words, it is a charity created by the famous fashion designer that has provided 10 million nutritious meals to children in need. Kors’ campaign features a lookbook of his notorious “Kors style” watches, with a big watch face and thick metal band. With the purchase of any of the watches, one hundred meals are donated to hungry children.

Because of his impact, Kors was recently named a U.N. World Food Programme Ambassador for those who do not have the voice to take action against poverty.

His unique and masterful watch design features a map of the world he is helping to save on the watches’ faces. To learn more about Watch Hunger Stop, visit this link.

2. Gucci

This high fashion brand is another designer that uses its products to promote change.

With its eloquently crafted and luxurious jewelry, Gucci extends to all forms of fashion, unique and classic. To raise awareness and support for earthquake relief efforts in Japan, Gucci created a piece of jewelry that crosses boundaries greater than fashion.

This limited edition silver chain bracelet can help save the lives of those suffering from displacement and disaster-related health problems. All of the proceeds from the sales of this bracelet benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society to support the victims of the Higashi Nihon Dai-Shinsai earthquake and tsunami.

When one wears the bracelet, he or she emits sympathy for Japan because of the hint of red and white that recalls the colors of the Japanese flag. Simultaneously, the wearer is showing that he or she cares because of the medal the bracelet carries which says “Gucci loves you.”

The fashion brand has also created a handbag that benefits UNICEF in support of the Schools for Africa and Schools for Asia initiatives.

3. Versace

One of the most famous fashion designers of all time, Donatella Versace, also feels for people affected by natural disasters.

Her Versace One Foundation supports those affected by the Sichuan province earthquakes in China. The brand provides art supplies to encourage creativity and teamwork for children living near the disaster area.

Versace created colorful handbags that incorporate child-like drawings on the fabric, seemingly hinting at the reason for the creation of the bags. Fifty percent of the proceeds of these couple-hundred dollar bags go to this foundation.

4. Kate Spade New York

This fashion designer chose clothing instead of jewelry to show her humanitarian side. Kate Spade’s Spring 2014 collection helped create jobs for a community of 20,000 people.

The name of the collection, “On Purpose,” serves a powerful purpose for women in Rwanda. The brand teamed up with the locals to help educate artisans in the community about marketing for the betterment of their businesses.

“On Purpose” targeted a collection of mostly female workers, forging equality and creating a different work dynamic for the people in Rwanda.

5. Kenneth Cole

Moved by the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, fashion designer Kenneth Cole joined the amfAR board. He was later elected as chairman of the executive committee.

His classic and simple fashion brand helps to provide most of the creative advertising for the HIV/AIDS research and awareness that amfAR uses. According to amfAR, Cole has “initiated public awareness efforts annually since 1985.”

With his famous “We All Have AIDS” campaign, Cole employed key entertainment, political, social and scientific leaders to help change the social stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS victims.

Cole’s help has moved amfAR to a different stage, carrying the hope of finding cures for life-threatening diseases.

There are many more fashion designers like these who use their celebrity power to enhance the lives of those in poverty. Henceforth, it can be said that fashion, like the clothing mentioned earlier, can be a means for protection from hunger, disaster, inequality and disease.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: amfAR, Destination Kors 1, Destination Kors 2, Gucci, In Style, More.com
Photo: EMC Blue

Harper’s Bazaar China Leads the Fashion of Charity
When you hear about Fashion Magazine, you probably think of gorgeous ladies and gentlemen in luxury attires who have nothing to do with poverty. However, Harper’s Bazaar China has started “BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Night” and has proposed to “let the charity become a kind of fashion.”

Hosted by Harper’s Bazaar China, a famous international fashion magazine, BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Gala is an annual fundraising gala for Chinese celebrities who support charities. It collects money through an auction and the funding is used for charities that support causes for impoverished children, medical aids, disaster recovery and many others.

In 2003, a year when SARS spread in mainland China, BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Night was established due to the social responsibility of journalists in Harper’s Bazaar China. With the whole society threatened by an incurable disease, fashion journalists felt powerless in helping by merely advertising luxurious lifestyles and beautiful attire. Thus, under the suggestion from a famous Chinese singer, Na Ying, the journalists in Harper’s Bazaar China started fundraising through auctioning used items owned by celebrities to financially support people in need.

Through live telecast, the charity event has gained a lot of attention. Singers and dancers voluntarily perform at the event and movie stars dress up in glamorous outfits. The event is a good opportunity to advertise charity.

The first session of the gala collected 168,000 RMB, which made a hit in Chinese society. Thus Harper’s Bazaar China decided to maintain this program and try to develop it into a more influential social and charitable event. In 2004, the team came up with the idea to “let charity become a fashion” and encourage Chinese stars to support charities.

In 2012, the tenth anniversary of the charity night was held in Beijing. More than 600 entrepreneurs and stars such as famous actress Zhang Ziyi, martial arts star Jackie Chan, pianist Lang Lang and popular singer Jay Chou attended the charity event. During the auction, a painting by famous contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi was sold for 17 million yuan, the highest price of the night. Participants who didn’t auction any items were also encouraged to donate 100,000 yuan. The event raised a total of $6.3 million.

According to the organizers of this event, all the funding raised in 2012 was donated to several projects for poverty alleviation, medical aid for children and craniofacial cleft lip and palate treatment. In 2013, funds were donated to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and the Zhonghua Siyuan project to financially support the economic development of poverty-stricken areas in China.

In an interview, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar China, Su Mang, said, “People usually think Fashion has nothing to do with charity. Sometimes they regard charity merely as our strategy to gain attention, but I want to say that, if behind the glamorous dresses, there is a true willingness to help others, we should also applaud for them.”

Shengyu Wang

Sources: Baidu, CNTV, Youtube
Photo: Mod Bad

squiggle
Canopy, an NGO, commits to sustainability by targeting the marketplace to mitigate non-green practices. Canopy works with businesses, fashion brands, book publishers, magazine publishers, newspaper publishers and printers to protect the earth’s forests and fragile ecosystems.

CanopyStyle pledges to protect the earth’s ancient and endangered forests from supply chains. It’s “Fashion Loved by Forest” campaign unites prestigious clothing companies to support Canopy’s mission of eliminating environmentally destructive materials from fashion production.

Among the fashion brands devoted to reducing their ecological footprint are Inditex/Zara, Levi Strauss & Co., Quiksilver, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, prAna, Aritzia, Portico/Under the Canopy, H&M, Marks & Spencer, lululemon Athletica, EILEEN FISHER, loomstate, Stanley &Stella, ASOS and G-Star RAW.

  1. H&M protects forests by choosing greener fabrics and by turning to alternate fiber sources. It’s goal is to avoid sourcing any materials from endangered sources by 2017. With the Forest Stewardship Council, it makes sure it uses green materials. H&M is also working to build transparency in its supply chains.
  2. Lululemon Athletica avoids using raw metals like tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold and signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s’ Cotton Pledge to end forced child and adult labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvesting. The company partners with DOWNLITE, a company that provides ethically treated down products. It also prides itself on buying wool from transparent, ethical and green vendors.
  3. Stella McCartney does not use viscose in production or fibers from forested areas. It is also trying to strengthen transparency in its supply chains.
  4. EILEEN FISHER’s sustainable fibers collection uses “natural, recycled, and high-tech fibers in its eco collection.” It opts for Tencel over viscose, which is more traceable, more responsible, less-processed, less-energy intensive, less chemical-intensive and less toxic. According to EILEEN FISHER, Tencel is made from sustainably harvested trees, and its closed-loop production means that 99.5 percent of chemicals used in wood pulp-fiber converting are reused.
  5. Patagonia uses an array of ethical and green materials. It uses PVC and phthalate-free inks for T-shirts, 100 percent traceable down insulation, Forest Stewardship Council-certified fibers and chlorine-free wool. Patagonia’s supply chain is extremely transparent, evident in its published reports: public factory list, factory scoring system, principles of fair labor and responsible sourcing, workplace code of conduct, social responsibility benchmarks, paper policy, water footprint, and packaging and merchandising policy.
  6. Aritzia’s Social & Environmental Responsibility (SER) team takes care of protecting its planet, customers and workplace teams. It helps the environment by cutting back on paper in printing and dining, conferencing and packaging. It uses tech to override paper-based systems and also participates in donating extra fabrics to women and children in Yunnan, China. The program, in alliance with Eco Village of Hope and HANDA Rehabilitation and Welfare Association, works to train communities on how to sew beautiful clothing. Aritzia also donates funds that, so far, have provided 130 hygiene packages, 25 sewing kits and 15 electric sewing machines.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Canopy Planet, Canopy Style 1, Canopy Style 2, H&M, Lulu Lemon, Stella McCartney, Patagonia, Aritzia

 

fashion_project
Raising money for charity is a mission that many organizations and movements have, but it is their techniques what makes them different.

Fashion Project has the mission to raise as much money as possible in order to donate it to charity and humanitarian causes. They achieve this through the creation of a community that donates and shops for clothing pieces to support causes these donors and buyers care about.

According to Fashion Project’s official website, this technique has placed them as the industry leader in online clothing donation.

The designer brands that the Fashion Project sells and accepts for donation are Fendi, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce Vita, Elie Saab, Free People, Gucci, Hermes, Lanvin, Prada, Michael Kors and Valentino, among others.

Once donors select the cause they want to support, they can donate their gently used or new designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Fashion Project covers shipping and they also photograph the donated clothing pieces in order to sell them in their online boutique for buyers. In addition, clothing and accessories donors will get a tax receipt.

While their online shop offers sale prices in designer brand items, buyers can take advantage of the savings these items offer and, at the same time, their purchase provides a donation to charity.

Up to 55 percent of the sells of Fashion Project’s online shop are directed to support different charity programs.

As of today, Fashion Project has raised around $700,000 for charity, and is supporting 2,016 charities and organizations.

Some of the charity partners that Fashion Project supports are She’s The First (sponsors girl’s education in developing countries), Neads (dogs to help the deaf and disabled people), Apne Aap Women Worldwide (empowers women to gain independence) and Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (produces programs that reduce poverty and the marginalization of women and their families), among others.

On the other hand, people can also create their own “Fashion Project” as a fundraising campaign.
Fashion Project gives fundraisers the necessary tools to create their fundraising personalized site so they can invite people to donate or shop fashion items for a good cause. Once the fundraiser reaches his goal, Fashion Project will direct their raise to its destination.

This project has been growing with the years to a point in where Fashion Project has partnered with Neiman Marcus, and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The project has also launched donation programs with Nordstrom, Joie and Elie Tahari, among others.

According to an article published by Forbes, partnerships with retailers have been an important aspect to spread Fashion Project’s mission.

The most popular designer brands on the online shop are Coach, Theory, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Tory Burch. Most of the donors and buyers are from the United States but they have had donations from Europe countries interested in donating to the cause and supporting the mission of Fashion Project.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Forbes, Fashion Project 1, Fashion Project 2, Fashion Project 3
Photo: Boston.com

Noonday_Collection_Ambassadors
Creativity comes in many forms. For example, it can be when one combines fashion and justice to bring business to impoverished communities around the world — and that is exactly what Jessica Honegger did when she created Noonday Collection.

What started as a trunk show by a woman who wanted to raise money to adopt a son from Rwanda soon became more than a one-time fundraiser, It has become an innovative business model that allows women to use fashion to create jobs at living wages for artisans in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Since its launch in 2011, Noonday Collection has provided women in the U.S. the opportunity to earn an income through entrepreneurship while still alleviating global poverty, creating a mutual beneficiary relationship that strays from the charitable “handout.”

Using fashion and design to create economic opportunity for impoverished communities, women can become social entrepreneurs known as Noonday Collection Ambassadors.

As ambassadors, women use their fashion sense to change the world and collaborate with others to make an impact simply by shopping, styling, sharing and advocating.

Noonday Collection states it best on its website: “Your fashion sense can now restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans.”

Noonday Collection Ambassadors partner with artisans in developing countries by selling jewelry, winter scarves, headbands and other accessories through trunk shows and personalized e-commerce sites. Artisans earn a percentage of the sales commission.

By partnering with artisans in developing countries, ambassadors can empower others to create a marketplace for their goods in their own community while still being able to help those in poverty earn a sustainable business to support their families.

Noonday Collection pays for all its products up-front and even makes advanced payments to provide artisans the money flow they need to start a sustainable business.

The company also sends members of its team to train artisans on what practices are best to design for the U.S. market among other topics to help them understand their business.

In addition, Noonday Collection offers scholarship programs, emergency assistance and donate a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to help place orphans in a permanent home.

If you would like to take part in this growing movement that has supported more than 1,200 adoptive families through its entrepreneurial insight and fashionable taste, visit the Noonday Collection website to learn how to become a Noonday Collection Ambassador: http://www.noondaycollection.com/become-an-ambassador.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Noonday Collection 1, Noonday Collection 2, Toms
Photo: Flickr

la-sape
In Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of Congo, a group of men—gentlemen—always gallantly brighten up the moods of those around them. Meet la Société des Ambienceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (the Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance), abbreviated as La Sape—an apt abbreviation that also happens to mean clothes, or dress, in French. The members of this association are referred to as les sapeurs.

La Sape originated from Dandyism of the 19th century that was brought to Congo by colonialism. Colonial officers wanted their servants—or as they were called during that era “houseboys”—to dress in such a manner that would reflect the status of their masters. Congolese men coming back to their country from France also brought French fashion with them. Thus, among the youth and those who worked for the colonizers, many wanted to emulate and live up to the myth of the Parisian elegance.

However, nowadays, this foreign-influenced fashion has been appropriated and utilized as a uniquely Congolese sartorial expression to defy the harsh reality of everyday poverty and to allow those who partake in this subculture to articulate their art of living and their joie de vivre. In a country where 46.5 percent live at or below the national poverty line, an average person earns $3,240 per year. Nevertheless, today’s sapeurs are willing to pay a fortune for a pair of crocodile shoes, which can cost anywhere between $1,300 and $3,900. That is not to say that the sapeurs are on average wealthier than most Congolese or that they indulge in conspicuous consumerism.

Most members of La Sape have medium-income occupations such as electricians, shopkeepers or marketing agents. Despite their meager incomes, the sapeurs manage to use their creativity to assemble fashionable dresses to turn the streets of Brazzaville into runways. To save money, the sapeurs often buy second hand clothes or obtain them from friends. Besides their à la mode (and perhaps even a little avant-garde) clothing, the sapeurs also uphold—to a near commandment status—certain types of demeanors and manner that are the quintessence of politeness and elegance. Some of these commandments include: “1. To dress oneself here on earth as it is in heaven,” “8 & 9. To not be tribalist, racist, nationalist, or violent” and “ 10. To not display any hesitation in trying to charm all those who are sappophobic.” In Brazzaville, the sapeurs are somewhat celebrities—not unlike reality TV starts. Their presence at weddings, celebrations, parties and even funerals, are appreciated as they so often bring a sense of lightheartedness and stylishness to the occasions.

Although outsiders may see La Sape movement as a direct legacy of colonialism and the European imposition of Western values, the sapeurs in fact defy the stereotypes that are, too, imposed upon the many peoples of Africa by outsiders. In contrast to the usually clichés of a monolithic Africa of famine, wars, and safaris, the sapeurs show that there are more dimensions beyond the clichés. No matter how difficult the circumstance may be for the sapeurs, they nevertheless know how to make the best out of what they possess and in doing so, bring joy to both themselves and those around them. And as for the accusation that the sapeurs are perpetuating the legacy of colonialism, Baudouin Mouanda—a photographer who immortalized the numerous members of La Sape—has once stated, “the Westerners made the dress, but how it is worn was invented in Brazzaville.”

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Zone Zero, Racialicious, Jeuneafrique, NPR
Photo: Fashion Junkii

kenneth_cole_awearness
Getting involved has never looked so good.

When he’s not introducing some of the most fashion-forward and innovative clothes in the industry, fashion icon Kenneth Cole is promoting Awearness.

A careful reader, or spelling-stickler, will surely be screaming right now about a typo in the previous paragraph.  But “Awearness” is actually a pun and the charitable vision of Kenneth Cole: “wearing” Kenneth Cole clothing promotes awareness of the many issues championed by the fashion label.  From HIV/AIDS advocacy to Disaster Relief, Cole’s Awearness foundation has supported many laudable causes.

One of the organization’s greatest achievements is the Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center (KCHHC).  The Center opened in 2012 and functions as a critical source of medicine and advanced health care in the region.  The KCHHC has treated 6,000 patients each year since its opening.  It is also a base for the continuing effort of providing relief in the aftermath of the earthquake from 2010 that left the country reeling.

Cole is also the chairman of the board for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.  A notable accomplishment during his tenure at amfAR is the introduction of four new anti-HIV drug treatments.  Using his role as chairman, Cole routinely partners his fashion line with amfAR to raise funds for HIV/AIDS research.  For instance, all sales of the specially designed “amfAR Watch” will benefit the organization’s research.  A battery-free skeleton watch, wrapped with a rose gold frame and the AIDS Awareness ribbon on the watch’s back, makes for both a wonderful gift idea during the holiday season and a great way to fight for HIV/AIDS research.

Kenneth Cole has always prided himself on being a bit of an iconoclast in the fashion world.  His pun-filled advertisement campaigns do not shy away from heavy subject matters.  One advertisement includes two fashionable young women carrying Kenneth Cole designer bags with the pithy slogan, “We are all potential carriers.”  The ad is a great example of the blending of Cole’s fashion with his AIDS advocacy.  Another example can be seen in a campaign ad on New York subway trains: “Latest AIDS statistic: 0,000,000 vaccinated.”

But Kenneth Cole’s largest mantra is, “What You Stand For Is More Important Than What You Stand In.”  It’s a sobering reminder that being fashionable is meaningless in the face of being an advocate for change.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Awearness Foundation, AMFAR, Kenneth Cole, Amazon
Photo: PhilanthrophyIs