Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani celebrated her appointment as Goodwill Ambassador to Fashion 4 Development (F4D), at the inaugural First Ladies and Fashion 4 Development luncheon Monday, September 19 at New York City’s iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The elegant event was hosted by Evie Evangelou and Lincoln Center’s founding director of fashion, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff (formerly of Vogue). “Franca Sozzani is a perfect choice to lead our mission as Goodwill Ambassador. Her professional career and her philanthropic efforts are truly an inspiration that will garner the support of fashion elite worldwide,” stated Evangelou, co-founder of Fashion 4 Development.
Sozzani collected her four-leaf clover award (representing love, hope, luck, and faith) and elaborated on her path to success; explained how she has sought to use her fashion pulpit to better society and the world; and pledged her support for various F4D initiatives.
Honored in absentia was Bibi Russell, who founded Fashion 4 Development in 1996 with UNESCO, which now is a supporting partner of the UN Millennium Development Goals. (She delivered a message of hope, remotely from the jungles of Bangladesh, where she employs over 130,000 women.) This message of empowerment was additionally echoed by Sozzani and Winston Wolkoff, who spoke about the need to harness the power of the multi-billion dollar fashion industry, in order to help grow and sustain under-developed economies.
Concluding a United Nations high-level meeting on empowering women in the digital era, which included speakers such Ms. Cherie Blair and Ms. Geena Davis, the luncheon was attended by several heads of state, first ladies, foreign dignitaries, society doyennes, and fashion glitterati such as Naeem Khan, Rachel Roy, Vivienne Tam, Primer Minister Baldwin Spencer, Dr. Valerie Steele, Robert Verdi, Michelle Harper, Jennifer Creel, Minnie Mortimer, and Gillian Hearst Simonds.
This premiere campaign, led by first ladies from around the world and supported by the fashion, creative, business, diplomacy, and media communities, seeks to utilize fashion as a tool to empower women and implement creative strategies for sustainable economic growth and autonomy. The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness and raise funds that will be dispersed as grants to organizations and individuals to empower their impoverished communities, under the auspices of the World Fashion Development Program.
H.E. Ambassador Geri Benoit, former first lady of Haiti, now serving as ambassador of Haiti to Italy, presented Fashion-ABLE Haiti at the Luncheon, a project of the Embassy of Haiti in Rome. Fighting back tears, she emotionally implored the fashion community to continue fighting for impoverished and tragedy-laden nation states such as her own.
The luncheon also included several presentations of sustainable fashion lines, developed with the support of the F4D.
Sonny Lee, co-founder of the World Fashion Development Program summarized the organization’s goals best in her speech by encouraging attendees to use “the fashion industry to eliminate poverty.”
A VIP reception and dinner followed later that evening, which hosted numerous dignitaries and governmental officials.