This pandemic has required us to become more empathetic, more compassionate, more resourceful, and more creative. Rebecca Moses is already all of these things, and then some. The prolific fashion designer, artist, illustrator, and author has always used her art as a vehicle to celebrate and empower women. But she has recently found a new way to use her formidable talents. Rebecca is creating hope with a paintbrush, a bond of togetherness, and is building a sisterhood which connects and supports. It’s extraordinarily touching and could not be more perfect at the moment.
The picture that Amy Fine Collins sent me to go along with the description of her most indispensable things was a painting recently done by Rebecca Moses. As it turns out, this is part of Rebecca’s Stay at Home Girls campaign. I have known Rebecca since my Bazaar days. I was intrigued and wanted to know more.
During a lengthy phone call, Rebecca explained how it all began. There was going to be a big launch for a campaign she created for Linda Levy, president of The Fragrance Foundation. It was to celebrate National Fragrance Day, March 21st. There were plans for a big party at Bergdorf Goodman and a pop-up store on Madison Avenue. Naturally, everything was canceled. Rebecca said that she knew this was coming because she lived in Italy and still has family there. When they canceled Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano (it’s a furniture fair held annually and the largest trade fair of its kind in the world), Rebecca realized this was really going to hit hard.
With everything in lockdown mode, Rebecca needed to keep herself busy and engaged. She began painting her stay at home girls out of her imagination. Her intent was to bring irony and humor to her friends. She felt helpless, just sitting at home, and knew she wanted to help people. And then it hit her.
Instead of creating fictitious people, why not reach out to real people? Rebecca decided to ask her friends to send her a letter, and in exchange, she would create a painting of them and post it on Instagram along with a little video. The stories are both painful and hysterical.
“I made an outreach on Instagram, and people started reaching out and interconnecting with each other. It really became a sisterhood, and now I am on 5 continents. We have the most amazing women from all walks of life, from the Sahara desert to Perth Australia to Buenos Aires, to LA. Everyone is connected and so thrilled to get this connection,” said Rebecca.
In addition to Amy Fine Collins, other fashion figures who share their at-home stories are June Ambrose; Priya Shukla, VP of PR for Vera Wang; Beatrice Fontana, a Milanese fashion and interior designer; Helen Nonini, a Milanese influencer; Christina Juarez a PR consultant; and Pippa Vosper, a writer and brand consultant from London.
Rebecca also did one of me using a picture I posted on my most recent column as reference.
Rebecca recently painted Melba Wilson, She owns Melba’s in Harlem and is in the news as of late. Melba’s employees partnered with Team Unity Incorporated to launch Melba’s COVID-19 Employee Relief Fund. The goal of the fund is to raise a minimum of $250,000 to provide financial relief to the dozens of impacted hourly workers at Melbas.
But, Rebecca made it very clear that she is trying to reach out to everybody. “I don’t care what you do or what your socioeconomic level is. We are all in this together.” And so, there is a working woman whose husband drives an ambulance in Bergamo, Italy. Linda Valentine, head of nursing at Mt. Sinai Hospital, is working nonstop. Her letter was submitted by her sister. Maya from Perth, Australia, is just recuperating from major lung surgery.
.Dr. Kulsoom is an optometrist from Michigan and the mother of two teens. Sophia is a new mom in quarantine with her newborn son and partner living on a hill with nature all around them in Italy. There is Oshane, who lives in the Sahara desert in Senegal with her young child. Oshane’s story was submitted by her mother, Kebat, who noted: “the world is definitively a big village and what really matters is not what we are doing but why and how we are doing it: is our inner motivation to build a world of goodness and beauty.”
Haonoah is an interior designer who bought some of Rebecca’s paintings for her clients. Her husband is in a NY hospital recuperating from esophagus surgery. She has no children and is very depressed. She wrote Rebecca a letter, and Rebecca did a painting of her and posted it. Rebecca asked her followers to reach out to Haonoah as she is alone and frightened. And they did. They told Haonoah they were there for her and offered their services, including tarot reading. Rebecca said the outreach between one another is beautiful.
I asked Rebecca how she actually paints the portraits, which will reach 100 in number by this weekend. Rebecca said that she asks the women to send a picture of what their lives look like right now. If it’s more of an emotion she wants to capture, then she uses their Instagram posts. I was taken by her work’s resemblance to Matisse and Modigliani. Rebecca admitted she is highly influenced by the two artists.
Rebecca said she does three paintings a day. Sometimes 4 or 5. Her close friend Vera Wang once remarked that Rebecca can paint with her eyes closed and that she is very, very fast. Rebecca admitted it’s intense but is determined to push forward with her project because these women need to feel appreciated and part of something. “It’s not just about painting. I want them to feel their value. I am on a mission, and I just have to do this. We need hope, and if I can give them hope with my paintbrush, I am satisfied.”
Before the pandemic hit and everything stopped, Rebecca was working on a book. The subject is on the paradox of dressing in black through the ages. She is working with a historian in London. Rebecca is providing the illustrations. It is historical and captures all the incredible things that black has represented in clothing, from the hookers and the nuns to the widows, and of course, fashion people. Rebecca wants it to be an easy read and something that would make a great gift. Rebecca’s first book, “A Life of Style,” published by Monacelli Press, was released in 2010.
Rebecca had “an incredible business” but closed down her ready-to-wear in Italy in 2005 and moved back to New York, where she consulted on special projects. She said she would not want to produce her own collection unless she lived in Italy. As far as where we are now heading, Rebecca believes this will be a real “come to Jesus” moment. There are too many collections, products, seasons, openings. It was a burnout for most designers.
“You can’t design a collection every month. And who is buying it all? It’s a time for somber reflection as an industry and as a world.” Indeed, the retail structure is collapsing. Is this the end of the big retailer? Any way you look at it, it’s a whole new era, and we have to allow it to happen. And, as Rebecca pointed out, it doesn’t have to be negative.