While many in the fashion community are trying to ride out the tidal wave of upheaval brought on by the coronavirus, Fashion 4 Development is working on several initiatives.
Founder Evie Evangelou has reserved a room in the U.N. Delegates Dining Room for a late September event that is designed to be the first step in setting up more comprehensive intercontinental guidelines for sustainability that are meant to not just be relatable from one country to the next, but also to hold companies and brands accountable for their sustainability pledges.
Hoping that the current cancel-everything culture will have eased by the fall, Evangelou said the plan is to have the event during what is to be the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. F4D plans to bring together leaders in fashion with representatives from the U.N. and various government officials to discuss issues related to sustainability. Aside from the need to get them together in the same room, the plan is to create a steering committee that will work on proposals to have governments work with the fashion industry to agree upon regulations, adjustments and legal issues to help expedite the supply chain.
“Everyone is working on their own things, signing their pacts or whatever. But how are we following up and checking what they are actually doing?” Evangelou said. “I’m not saying this is the cure-all. But there are additional ways and important ways to put certain rules and regulations in place.”
The U.N. Partnerships, the U.N. Global Compact, the U.N. Environment Program, the U.N.’s Ethical Fashion Initiative, the U.N. Development Program, the World Bank and other agencies will be represented.
Evangelou continued, “We all know what we need to do environmentally and for human rights as well. It’s time to come together in a really organized manner. The goal is to present ideas and ways that governments and manufacturers can work together to improve sustainability throughout the supply chain. The world really can do better. This is an opportunity to reach the governments.”
In another initiative, F4D had a tie to the African Fashion Foundation connecting with Italian Vogue to create a scouting program for African designers. AFF’s founder Roberta Annan’s uncle, Kofi, was the seventh secretary general of the U.N. Annan also serves as the founder and managing partner of the Impact Fund for African Creatives.
The new initiative with AFF spotlights three African designers — fashion ones Torlowei and Ophelia Crossland, and milliner and accessories designer Velma. The social impact project is twofold, with one part being broadening distribution and the other being empowering indigenous women.
Six impoverished women, who are living in the streets, are being placed in safe houses and will be trained in how to do beading, sewing, handwork and millinery skills, Evangelou said. With their help, the three African designers will produce collections that will be shown to retailers in the U.S., the Middle East, the U.K., and other regions. There will also be talks with e-tailers like Yoox, according to Evangelou. “The idea is to keep training women every three months and to keep placing their collections,” she said.
F4D is also looking ahead to its next First Ladies Luncheon in the fall. Anticipating how social events may change post COVID-19, Evangelou is considering a more intimate gathering at The Pierre hotel, with a salon-like fashion show reminiscent of the ones European houses held decades ago instead of a runway one.
F4D is opening up the airwaves on another front by helping to organize talks about how different people — not just those who work in fashion — are coping with COVID-19 through different universities. The first will be with the University of California Television, which is known as UCTV, a public-serving media outlet that has an audience of 10 million. The F4D series was set up through the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion at U.C. San Diego, which is on one of the university’s 10 campuses.