Designers for Darfur
Lest anyone think that NY Fashion Week is just an 8-day self-absorbed commercial event, the last runway show I went to was a charity and awareness event organized by Designers For Darfur on February 9th at the Roseland Ballroom. I was invited to the event last minute, but I was happy to tag along to see how it would turn out. The organization was recently founded to help bring international attention and donations to Africa's Darfur region, and this was their first event. Guests were encouraged to commit donation pledges after watching a video, highlighting the effects that the genocide has had upon the region, and the show. I don't think anyone in the entire room was unaware of what was going on in Darfur prior to the video, but it definitely served as a sobering reminder.
40+ well-known designers each donated a look for the show - a very impressive feat organized by DFD founders Malcolm Harris, a designer for Mal Sirrah, and Lydia Hearst, heiress and model. Designers were from Heatherette, Chado Ralph Rucci, Malandrino, Donna Karan, Carmen Marc Valvo, Baby Phat, etc. - a wide cross-section of styles and customer bases. All of the runway looks are actually for auction on eBay, with all proceeds given to charity (find better shots by clicking on the photo above).
A lot of effort was put into the front-end of the show - the designers were obviously top-notch and so were the models. The Roseland isn't a minor venue either. I have no doubt that the organizers really believed in this event and pushed as hard as they could, hoping for a greater media splash. Unfortunately, it didn't really come to fruition. It was not actually covered as anything other than another show in most media outlets (if it wasn't ignored completely, which was most of the time). Perhaps everyone was tired by the full week of 200+ shows already given. The other charity event, the Red Dress Collection, to raise national awareness for heart disease in women, actually snagged a First Lady and plenty of press power by kick-starting the week on the first day of shows, in the tents. Obviously, timing didn't exactly explain everything either.
Even the event's own sponsors didn't really push it. Looking through sponsor websites, only Fashion Television actually posted any information about the event. Yet, the nagging truth is that of course, no one had to bother participating at all. Say what you will about their reasons for helping out, it's commendable that at the very least, they made an effort and a commitment.
You can learn more at the Save Darfur Coalition.