Fashion 4 Development: Fashion with a Global Purpose

Franca Sozzani, Evie Evangelou, and Livia Firth at the 2nd Annual Fashion 4 Development Ladies’ Luncheon

In this election year there is much chatter about the need for sustainable economic growth through homegrown manufacturing. And while our two presidential candidates are still debating about this country’s need for further development of homegrown industries, there are organizations that already have their hands on the pulse of this growing economic challenge. Fashion 4 Development is one such organization.

Runway images from F4D’s 2nd Annual First Ladies’ Luncheon

As a private sector global initiative in direct cooperation with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General H.E. Ban Ki Moon, Fashion 4 Development (“F4D”) seeks to harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries to implement creative strategies for sustainable economic growth and independence for communities worldwide. Originally founded in 1996 by supermodel Bibi Russell, F4D developed a sustainable economic model that now employs 150,000 textile workers in Russell’s native Bangladesh.

Under the leadership of Evie Evangelou, F4D has launched the F4D media platform on South South News, an official media partner of the United Nations. Also, under Evangelou’s watch F4D is involved in sustainable economic initiatives in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Bostwana, South Africa, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Colombian, Indonesia, and Haiti. “I thought was creating something new until I found out about Bibi Russell’s efforts with F4D online. I was interviewing designers at a F4D show for South South News and there was such a huge positive response from that effort that it gathered inertia on its own. We have worked very hard and the United Nations has been a huge supporter of our efforts,” details Evangelou.

Franca Sozzani attending the 2nd Annual F4D First Ladies’ Luncheon

Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, is also lending her support to F4D. “When F4D originally asked me to be their premier goodwill ambassador I was shocked. But they felt I brought a unique experience because as editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia I am always looking for and encouraging young designers and new talent,” explained Sozzani. “F4D felt that Africa was primed and ready for the type of help I could bring to craftsmen and young designers. So our outreach was to bring the incredible talent on the African continent into the forefront and help develop more sustainable growth through these discoveries. We are helping these designers and craftsmen with distribution in Europe and America.” With Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, Sozzani has visited several African countries and with the assistance of F4D has facilitated the distribution of African goods and fashion products in several European boutiques and on QVC. Franca Sozzani in this past May/June L’Uomo Vogue spearheaded in entire issue dedicated to Africa.

Pat Cleveland attending the 2nd Annual F4D First Ladies’ Luncheon. Images courtesy of Ernest Green

F4D is about getting down to the nitty gritty of elevating the lives of people in developing countries, especially the lives of women. Look, sometimes you have to get down and dirty and make sacrifices in your own life to make life better for other people … Fashion is sometimes seen as the window dressing of our lives, but the reality is you have do two things every day, you have to eat and you have to wear something and F4D is tapping into one of those daily necessities and finding ways to develop sustainable economies through something that is a part of our daily lives” concedes supermodel Pat Cleveland.

Fashion 4 Development is sending out the clarion call that  giving back is truly the new luxury.

—William S.  Gooch




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