Charlize Theron and Jean Paul Gaultier will be among the notable guests at the Life Ball on May 16 at Vienna City Hall.
As the largest charity event in Europe dedicated to helping people afflicted with HIV or AIDS, this weekend’s festivities will be reminiscent of the ancient Roman spring festival known as “ver sacrum” — meaning “sacred spring.” The expression has served as a source of inspiration for Gustav Klimt’s golden paintings and in Igor Stravinsky’s “Sacre du Printemps.” In tribute to the Vienna
This story first appeared in the May 13, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Secession, this year’s gold-infused theme will include a runway show by Gaultier, who has singled out Klimt as one of his favorite artists.
Open to all at no cost, the designer’s pre-Life Ball show will be held in City Hall Square, where about 35,000 people are expected. Mary J. Blige, 2014 Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, Dita Von Teese, Carmen Electra, Ellen von Unwerth, Kelly Osbourne, Paula Abdul, Anna Cleveland and Debra Shaw are among those who will walk in the show and speak at the event.
Marking his first return to the Life Ball in 20 years, Gaultier has been vocal through the years about supporting people with HIV and AIDS. The 35-minute show will be part of the two-hour-plus City Hall Square gathering that will include Theron discussing her Africa Outreach Project and Blige speaking on behalf of amfAR. In addition, the 2015 Swarovski Crystal of Hope award will be presented to Sentebale, the charity founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to help impoverished children in Lesotho, which is one of the world’s poorest countries with one of the world’s highest HIV rates. The two royals helped build a night school program for children who have to work during the day to help support their families. For some, that requires a two- to three-hour walk to school, but once there, HIV and AIDS awareness is part of the curriculum.
While it is believed that Theron’s partner Sean Penn will join her in Vienna, what is more definitive is that the South African-born actress is expected at the luncheon Austrian First Lady Margit Fischer will host at the Belvedere Palace in the Austrian capital.
After the fashion show, 3,800 ticket holders will find their way into City Hall for the Life Ball gala that will also keep with the golden Viennese Art Nouveau theme. Having worn an assortment of glittery gold dresses for the “J’adore Dior” campaigns and with a bevy of designer suitors, Theron will no doubt have her share of dresses to choose from. She and other revelers will get a glimpse of another trace of gold, as in the morning light: “The party will go until at least 5 a.m.,” a Life Ball spokeswoman said.
On their way home, guests will have other lights to keep an eye out for. Certain Vienna traffic lights will illuminate with images of same-gender couples, as opposed to single-figure adrogynous ones, as a sign of the city’s open-mindedness and a welcome for 2015 Eurovision visitors.