Although the fashion industry is currently bracing for New York Fashion Week, the entire world is a runway for Fashion 4 Development, the global organization in the private sector that celebrates sustainable economic growth through fashion industries around the world. F4D has selected the honorees for its third annual First Ladies Luncheon: designer and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge Livia Firth; Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and founder of the annual Women in the World summit; Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani; Rose of Sharon Foundation founder Folorunsho Alakija; and UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe.
The luncheon -- which brings together dozens of the world's first ladies with fashion industry leaders to recognize fashion designs from developing countries -- will be held Sept. 26 at the Pierre Hotel in New York, which coincides with the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Madame Ban Soon-Taek, first lady of the United Nations, will also serve as an honorable patron and guest speaker.
“These are the women behind the men in these countries, and they have a lot of access to assisting and helping mobilize things within their countries -- even if they don’t physically get involved on the ground with some of the programs and initiatives, by having their blessing and participation, it’s easier for us to work within that country,” F4D founder and president Evie Evangelou tells The Hollywood Reporter of assembling the world's top women at the event each year. “They all love fashion, and they all want to use this dream of fashion to uplift people.”
In addition to presenting its annual honors – Alakija with the Angel Award, Brown with the Women’s Champion Award and Firth with the Fashion 4 Development Award – the organization will introduce an annual League of Gentlemen Award for a noteworthy male, with Sidibe as its first recipient. Additionally, Sozzani will receive the F4D Medal of Honor, which Evangelou says is “an award that will be given to some for their service and dedication directly to F4D and our platform.”
“Fashion encompasses all industries -- from agriculture to communication -- and therefore its impact on everything and everyone is huge, no matter where it happens in the world,” Firth tells THR of being selected as an honoree for her strides through the Green Carpet Challenge, an initiative that works with top fashion brands like Gucci and Chopard to produce sustainable red-carpet designs and expand their corporate social responsibility. “I cherish Fashion 4 Development and the work that Evie Evangelou does. When we realize the difference that fashion brands can truly make to people halfway around the world who work in their industry when they are treated as equals, then we can only continue to work tirelessly toward a positive shift. This award is a huge incentive for me for the work we do at Eco-Age with the Green Carpet Challenge, and I am deeply honored to be receiving it this year from Fashion 4 Development.”
As part of the event’s overall mission to alter perceptions about fashion from developing countries, the luncheon’s fashion runway show and exhibits will also spotlight couture from regions not often associated with the production and design of luxury and high-end fashion: Angel Chang of China, Alfonso Guinoo of the Philippines, Zang Toi of Malaysia, Tanzila Rab of Bangladesh, Montaha of Kuwait, Giovanni Lopresti of Cyprus and Alexandra Taylor of the United States, among others.
“It’s a serious misconception that high-end couture is only created in fashion capitals like Milan, Paris and New York City,” says Evangelou in a release. “We know talented, creative designers in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Kuwait and countless developing cities, who are working with materials and techniques that are local to them and, as a result, creating fabulously unique pieces. These on-trend creations could be found on any Fashion Week runway. These designers are simply in need of assistance and a framework. Helping to provide this framework not only supports the individual designers, it serves to enrich the economies of impoverished communities worldwide.”