On Wednesday, F4D hosted its seventh First Ladies Luncheon at New York's Pierre Hotel. The event included honorees including Iman, Naomi Campbell, Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Sybil Yurman, and Simone Cipriani, as well as newly appointed F4D’s Goodwill Ambassador Afef Jnifen, F4D’s Paris Goodwill Ambassador Farida Khelfa and F4D’s Special Envoy Beatrice Borromeo Casiraghi.
The collective assembled on Wednesday is responsible for raising millions of dollars and awareness to benefit charities that organize disaster relief, promote wage protection globally, fight against religious discrimination to women and the LGBTQ community, sustainability and a host of other activist causes.
Fashion 4 Development (F4D)
New York-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Evie Evangelou founded Fashion 4 Development (F4D) in January 2011 in support of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and “Every Woman, Every Child”, the UN initiative spearheaded by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
A series of spontaneous interviews at the UN General Assembly in which she interviewed designers about what they were doing to help the Millennium Development Goals inspired her to move in a more concrete direction with specific goals. During her work with the UN she was at one point an adviser to former Secretary General Kofi Annan, but ultimately quit. “I came in very sort of visionary – ‘Oh we can change the world’ – but then when I really saw what humanity does, I was shocked and appalled and had to take a step back to rethink."
F4D builds upon the core leadership principles of the 4Es: Educate, Empower, Enhance and Enrich, and activates partnerships that promote the fashion and textile industry, advance economic and social development activities, preserve culture and empower women.
In 2015 F4D committed to support the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and place a significant focus on sustainable lifestyle practices for a healthier world. Fashion 4 Development’s tag line - “Giving Back is the New Luxury” – and its message to promote positive social change are being received with open arms around the world, with initiatives in over 20 countries. See a list of the F4D designers.
At Wednesday's First Ladies Luncheon, fashion gossip and chit chat was minimal.
Petra Němcová spoke of her organization, the Happy Hearts Fund, currently working on the ground in Puerto Rico and Houston to aid in hurricane relief. Iman reminded the group: "It's not just models who have a platform, we all have a voice, and the louder it is, the better. Sybil Yurman spoke of David Yurman's history using charitable spokespersons -- including Amber Valletta and Natalia Vodianova -- stressing the point that "It's not just a job -- we aren't just hiring someone to model for us, it's what they're connected to as well."
Honoring Franca Sozzani
The luncheon began with a memorial to the late Italian Vogue Editor in Chief Franca Sozzani --who served as a F4D ambassador and died of lung cancer in December 2016.
“She was such a powerhouse,” Evangelou told THR, explaining that Sozzani worked as hard as 12 people.
One of F4D’s early successes was persuading Sozzani -- their sole Goodwill Ambassador for nearly seven years --to do an entire issue on Africa. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agreed to do a six-page interview and was the first time in history that a Secretary-General of the UN covered a fashion magazine. Sozzani promoted dozens of African designers who were brought to Milan and New York to have their work was showcased. Evangelou says that the magazine gave African fashion the lift that they needed and they rolled with it.
“I think that was one of our most impactful beginnings because it was the first time ever a fashion magazine went to Africa and interviewed presidents, prime ministers, first ladies and mixed it with fashion designers, architects, entertainers,” says Evangelou.
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe
Congratulatory remarks were beamed in by video from Sozzani’s son Francesco Carrozzini, who announced the first France Sozzani Award recipient South Africa's Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe.
Following a capsule runway show of African fashion, a personal video message sent from Brazil by Alicia Keys joined Carrozzini in congratulating Dr. Precious for her achievements in fighting for human rights.
“I am deeply honoured to receive the inaugural Franca Sozzani Award,” Moloi-Motsepe said. “I am moved by this recognition of our efforts in Africa to showcase all our continent has to offer – its unique style, authenticity and its abundant future."
“There has been much discussion of cultural appropriation recently but I look across the city to the Museum of Modern Art where a new exhibition respecting the potential of global creative co-operations will open at the beginning of October. It features our own MaXhosa by Laduma as part of a bold re-examination of fashion and tradition that fills my heart with joy and hope for the future of creative fashion.
“It was extraordinary, while receiving the award, to feel as spiritually supported as ever by all my colleagues, clients, designers and fashion creatives across Africa,” Dr. Precious -- as she is called in South Africa -- said.
Covergirl Naomi Campbell, honored at the F4D luncheon for her charitable efforts for Fashion for Relief, launched in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, worked with Sozzani on her only black models issue that also sold out on global newsstands. “I met Naomi when she was 18, or maybe 17, or maybe even 16,” said Diane Von Furstenberg, who presented Campbell with the award. “I invited her to lunch at The Grill Room of the Four Seasons. I’ll never forget the sudden silence in the room and the faces of all these businessmen when she entered the room as a beautiful long, black swan.”
Campbell was the first black model to appear on the covers of Time, French Vogue and Russian Vogue, as well as being the first British black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue. With her close friend Edward Enninful now in place as the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Naomi is a contributing editor for the magazine.
Wearing a gold 'David' necklace honoring her late husband David Bowie, Campbell's fellow Vogue Italia cover star Iman told THR: “What [Sozzani] had as an editor was the humility part of it, because she saw beauty in everybody…That is what was so special about her rather than a lot of other people who are in our business.”
It was Donna Karan introduced Iman via remote, her friend of 41 years, with a reference to Bowie's January 2016 passing: “Most of all, [what] Iman [and] I share is the loss of our soulmates;” Karan said softly. “When David and Iman walked into the room, there was a circle of light around them, love and beauty.”
America's first lady Melania Trump was not present for the proceedings, as Somalia-born Iman made an indirect reference to the administration in her speech: “As a Muslim and an immigrant, I’m very concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in many parts of the world. This religious racism will be a defining hot button for generations to come. Let’s not have history repeat itself and pledge to take a stand and proclaim, ‘Not on our watch.’”
“Franca isn’t here with me this year, so it’s a bit emotional for me,” said Evie Evangelou. “In a way, I feel like she’s leaving a legacy for us to put even more power behind it and I’m amassing all these amazing women that are there to support her vision and mission with me. I feel like we’ve planted so many seeds together that this year, Franca’s making them sprout with me from heaven, even though she’s not with me.”