Last week, New York Fashion Week, and this week, the United Nations General Assembly – it’s that time of year when everyone wants a bite of the Big Apple, and we NYers want the use of our streets back. We are such a jaded bunch that Prince William can jog through Central Park unaccosted — good thing he didn’t try to ride the subway or walk through Times Square!
Although it was a “high-security event” never before open to the press, I’m sure he would be welcome to the 11th Annual Fashion 4 Development (F4D) First Ladies Luncheon, where I and about 250 others spent Tuesday afternoon.
The luncheon, always held during the UNGA, also marked the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral – fittingly so, as the organization is in partnership with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT). The “veddy” British tie-in included a special tribute to QEII – several of her “subjects” were represented including Stewart Parvin (the Queen’s designer), Rachel Trevor-Morgan (the Queen’s milliner), Stephen John Roberts (the Queen’s footman), Frederick Toye of Toye, Kenning & Spencer (the Queen’s supplier of insignia) and on video Anton Mosimann, OBE, (the Queen’s Swiss chef).
F4D’s Founder & Director Evie Evangelou wore a Parvin green pantsuit and Trevor-Morgan fascinator, later changing into a creation from the Global Fashion Runway. The luncheon table centerpieces on the main floor were beautiful (and expensive) sculptural chapeaus on LOAN (more on that later) from NY-based Suzanne Couture Millinery, who has worked with top designers from Johannesburg to London.
When I first walked into the cocktail reception downstairs at 583 Park Avenue, I thought perhaps I was at the hat luncheon, but no, it’s just the would-be Brits who fancied a toque or two. Many people interpreted the dress calling for “fashionably chic” as “Victorian English rose garden,” so there were the requisite flowered frocks.
Due to the sustainable aspect of what the F4D does, there were also those dressed in “recycled” attire or clothing befitting their native country. Mannequins with Parvin’s suits, Trevor-Morgan’s hats, a display case of Toye’s gold, silver, and embroidered medals, as well as a wall of South African designer Thebe Magugu’s robes decorated the space as people milled around, were interviewed, and posed for photogs on the green carpet.
Designer Magugu spoke of his entry into the fashion world, asking for “a moment of acknowledgment for people to be seen. I was taught that fashion must be from London, Paris, or New York – I applied to a well-known fashion school in New York and got rejected. It was a blessing in disguise. In 2016, I started my brand… it’s important to transcend culture from one generation to another – otherwise, these things are dead.”
Alina Karimamusama, a young entrepreneur selected by QCT (which sponsors 18-35-year-olds) as a founding member in Zambia, gave a very moving speech about overcoming a tough childhood living in a small house without plumbing. “My mother fought to get me and my sister back from Congo because our father had trafficked us across the border,” she said.
She is now in the top 4 of Africa’s young entrepreneurs and helped organize the royal visit of Prince Harry to the country, including giving a keynote speech alongside the prince. She proudly showed off her black and white dress, remarking that it took 172 hours of beading and hand stitching in Africa to create.
British “refashion” designer, influencer, and sustainable fashion activist Kate McGuire presented on stage with Frederick Toye. “The number one most important thing is to extend the life of our clothing,” she explained. “Go home and look at your closet – things you’ll never wear since we only wear 20% of our clothing. Take an evening dress – could you transform it into a day dress, shirt, and top?” She gave an example of shortening a long gown and styling it with a denim jacket or perhaps some embellishments like Toye’s medals.
Princess Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein introduced America’s Got Talent Finalist Emanne Beasha, a 16-year-old with the face and voice of an angel. She has been winning awards since she was eight – it’s shocking to see her perform in person and the voice that comes out of her petite frame.
After the Global Fashion Runway of silk-screened fashions taking inspiration from the Ottoman Empire, including sites such as the Hagia Sophia, Rebecca Seawright Assembly 76 serving the Upper East Side, introduced our own NYC “royalty” honoree Jean Shafiroff, noted for her philanthropic work. “We can all be philanthropists,” Jean explained. “If you don’t have the money, your time and knowledge can make a huge difference in this world.”
Jean, author of “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make A Life By What You Give,” called for everyone to work as a team with a vision, a reward system, and a way to reach our goals for sustainable fashion and a sustainable world. “No one will remember us for the vacation we took or even the business we created, but they will remember us for the good we did for future generations,” she concluded.
Daniel Grieder, CEO of Hugo Boss, remarked that we are heading towards “more plastic than fish in the ocean” – “No planet, no fashion” is how he succinctly put it.
As the luncheon finally wound down with Chef Anton’s bread and butter pudding (a Queen favorite), jam pennies, and chocolate biscuit cake (guests received these recipes to take home), another reminder that this was New York occurred. There was some confusion over whether the Suzanne Couture centerpieces were part of the “take home” goodie bag (which incidentally included organic wool socks – maybe they thought they should be covered from head to toe, lol), with several attendees deciding they were.
A mad search for the hats ensued with that “high security” detail examining the forensic evidence – the taped videos of the guests leaving the crime scene – hopefully the goods were recovered.
More about F4D: Over the last 13 years, F4D has reached global recognition, supporting programs in countries around the world supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These programs promote responsible lifestyle practices, offer solutions to environmental issues, advance economic and social development activities, preserve culture, and empower women.
This event has united 55-plus First Ladies from around the globe, including HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and HRH Queen Rania of Jordan. Past honorees included Victoria Beckham, Annie Lennox, Donna Karan, Iman, Franca Sozzani, Tina Brown, Naomi Campbell, Azzedine Alaia, and others in the celeb and fashion world.
Great article on this amazing woman!
Fabulous article! So well written, and telling of a quality life in fashion that transcends time!
Your All-American, tastefully coordinated look is an expression of your own creativity; not dependent on a designer’s input.
Dear Linda, Thank you so much!!!!
Marilyn ALWAYS GETS IT- AND THENSOME… thanks Marilyn for another great capture.
Beautiful selection Marilyn. It was a great escape!
Always keen and insightful commentary bt Marilyn for the fashion lovers among us. Yes, we need a little spectacular right…