NEW YORK — “I don’t usually do lunches since I’m more of an evening person, but this is very worthwhile,” revealed Ala von Auersperg standing in the opulent grand hall of the Metropolitan Club on Wednesday afternoon. The designer, who in 2015 launched an eponymous resortwear label, was among three honorees at the 13th annual Madison Square Boys & Girls Club’s “Salute to Style” luncheon.
The afternoon fund-raiser, which featured a silent auction of designer handbags, accessories, home decor, artwork and apparel, brought in nearly $100,000 to support extracurricular programs for children and teens in many of New York’s most underserved communities.
“The problems you see are because young men in particular are led the wrong way,” said von Auersperg, who founded both the National Center for Victims of Crimes and the Brain Trauma Foundation. “We see it a lot in the work we do because we see a lot of violence. Anything that can interrupt that cycle is incredibly important.”
Von Auersperg, whose charitable endeavors were inspired in part by her late mother Sunny Crawford von Bülow, was also influenced by the glamorous world in which she was raised. Recalling childhood trips to Paris with her mother for fittings with Hubert de Givenchy — whom she described as “the best-looking man I’d even seen” — von Auersperg has drawn from such experiences in her own design career. “It’s a certain amount of what you see when you’re young that you take with you all of your life.”
Madison Square alumnae Damaris Lewis, who served as guest speaker at the event, echoed von Auersperg’s sentiments. Attending Madison’s programs from ages six to 12, the model and former principal dancer for Prince explained how being a part of the Boys & Girls Club was instrumental in her future success.
“It was the first time I saw people a little bit older than me spending all of their time with me because they wanted to,” said Lewis, who attended the luncheon with her mother. “For me it was a safe haven where everyone knew me for me and allowed me to not fit in and for that to be totally OK.”
Lewis stands as the first model to be inducted into the Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame, which includes organization alums Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Kerry Washington and Misty Copeland, among others.
With a sparkling Roberto Cavalli jacket draped over her shoulders, the statuesque Lewis went off-script when addressing the crowd of supporters, which included Nicole Miller, Vanessa Noel, Ty Hunter, Debbie Bancroft, Mark Gilbertson and Vanessa Noel.
Looking out at the largely female crowd, Lewis — who will take on her first major role in a feature film later this year — said, “I want you to know that every time you hear Jay-Z or Lil Kim say ‘Brooklyn’ it’s because people who are from New York don’t get out and [often] don’t find success in New York. I represent all the kids born and raised here who want success, but don’t want to leave home.”
Noting that her first modeling opportunity was at age 10 at the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, Lewis went on to explain that while the afternoon was dedicated to saluting style, “style has no definition.”
“Every single person in this room has style and I’m not talking about your clothes,” she added. “I’m talking about the fact that no legend ever fit in. You don’t have to be a celebrity, but if you know somebody’s name, it means that [in some way] they didn’t fit in.”
Model Helena Christensen and designer Meredith Marks were also among the event’s honorees, who were all awarded original paintings from teenage artists and Madison Square Boys & Girls Club members.
“That painting touched me beyond anything,” said Marks, who plans to hang the artwork in the bedroom of her Chicago home. “I want to put it somewhere special because I want it close to me.”
Despite fighting a cold and a jam-packed schedule, Christensen was humbled at being recognized by the youth organization. “My nose is completely stuffy, I can hardly hear anything and Camilla Staerk and I are launching our collection of sunglasses with a party tonight, but this is wonderful. I wouldn’t have missed this.”
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