The Genteel
April 12, 2021


Toyin Saraki, Ban Soon-taek and Evie Evangelou. Source:
Livia Firth Franca Sozzani Fashion 4 Development
Franca Sozzani and Livia Firth at the
second annual Fashion 4 Development 
First Ladies luncheon in New York City.
Courtesy of Fashion 4 Development.

It was Tuesday, September 25th and as the United Nations General Assembly sat in session at UN headquarters in New York City, the world media's interest was being piqued just a stone's throw uptown. That particular morning, a plethora of journalists, fashion designers and dignitaries had been dashing through the revolving doors of the lavish Pierre hotel on East 61st Street.

Evie Evangelou, co-founder and global chair of Fashion 4 Development (F4D), followed by Ban Soon-taek, the UN's first lady and wife of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, were about to open the second annual F4D First Ladies luncheon. At first glance, the proceedings, which had rounded up first ladies from over 18 different countries, looked set to be excruciatingly fashionable. Journalists came face-to-face with a myriad of impeccably styled women who had quickly dotted themselves throughout the hotel's exquisite marbled hallway.

Then, as engaging conversations began to ripple through the air, rapidly galvanising journalists with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Norway's Princess Mette-Marit, Petra Nemcova, Martha Stewart, Roberta Flack and Stephen Burrows, it became apparent that something more poignant - politically relevant even - was clearly going to be the order of the day.

Supporting the fusion of fashion and ethics, as well as harnessing the power of the fashion industry to build sustainable futures worldwide, were priority discussion points at this year's First Ladies luncheon. And, applause for a revered set of women who are striving to shape their vision and pave the way for further change was first on the menu.

From First Ladies, to royalty, to fashion houses we all have to take an interest and we all have to take part.

Evangelou captured the ears of fashion industry leaders and worldwide supporters of the initiative to bestow Franca Sozzani as the first honoree on the ladies luncheon roster. Receiving an award for her outstanding work for F4D in Africa, Sozzani was followed by Toyin Saraki, founder of the Wellbeing Foundation in Nigeria. Saraki was presented with F4D's 2012 Angel Award.

Inspiring talks from HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Livia Firth followed. Firth, like her podium predecessors, made a strong case for ethics and glamour. "Fashion has always been a huge development tool," Livia had revealed to The Genteel a few moments prior to her speech. "We lost track of it and we aren't using it in that way anymore. We have to go back and look at what fashion is and all the possibilities that are there. Fashion involves so many industries, from agriculture to communication and so we have to make sure that the impact it has on each industry is big and it's a good impact on the planet and on the people who work in it." 

Fashion 4 Development
Toyin Saraki at the second
annual Fashion 4 Development First
Ladies luncheon in New York City. 
Courtesy of Fashion 4 Development.

In fact, Firth has also just allied her Green Carpet Challenge initiative with F4D as an Eco Style Partner. On this Firth said, "Franca Sozzani, asked me to come and introduce the Green Carpet Challenge to the First Ladies and it was an occasion that I couldn't say 'no' to. My entire vision is to try and talk to as many women as possible and First Ladies are a very powerful audience to have when you are trying to explain why ethics and glamour should go together and work together in tandem. From First Ladies, to royalty, to fashion houses we all have to take an interest and we all have to take part."

The final order of the day was the welcome arrival of the newly appointed Beauty 4 Empowerment goodwill ambassador, Lily Cole. And just as the British model and actress injected further glamour into the luncheon date, Cole's own humanitarian journey has clearly been complemented by her latest coup. "I'm really excited about it [the role]," Cole told The Genteel upon arriving at The Pierre. "This specific meeting point is very new for me. They asked me to be goodwill ambassador, but I have been working in this space for maybe six years on my own terms, so it's an exciting point in that journey."

Cole also went on to discuss how the political and fashion worlds are to be held accountable, saying, "I think the more important thing generally is to create the dialogue with the intention of awareness because that affects company policies and also political policies and that drives change. There is a need to increase transparency."




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