Dita’s $600,000 dream experience
Madonna, Gucci and a slew of celebs – from an all-smiling, gum-chewing Tom Cruise, through pretty-in-pink Gwyneth Paltrow to Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Lopez – set New York Fashion Week alight.
And it was all in a good cause.
As the burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, with a Japanese sponsor, bid $600,000 for a dream experience (a weekend that included an aerobic workout with Paltrow and Madonna), the room erupted into the kind of standing ovation usually reserved for rock concerts or fabulous fashion shows.
But the benefit Wednesday was no ordinary event. It took place, as Madonna put it, “on a piece of land that belongs to the world” – in the United Nations plaza, where a transparent tent offered a skyscape of Manhattan and a sculpture by the East River as background architecture.
And this event, to raise money for Unicef and for Malawi – the country where Madonna adopted a child and, she says, lost her heart – might just mark the beginning of a new phase in the glossy and glamorous luxury world.
Instead of celebrating the opening of its giant flagship on Fifth Avenue with a razzle-dazzle party in the three-story store, Gucci chose to underwrite the benefit to “give something back.” And at a moment when people are questioning the conspicuous consumption of the luxury world, this event seemed more heartfelt that the usual red-carpet parades of fancy frocks and famous faces – even if there were plenty of both.
“I feel very proud. Who could believe that so many celebrities would come – not for a fashion show but for fund-raising?” said Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director.
François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of PPR, the parent company of the Gucci group, was with his partner, Salma Hayek, while Mark Lee, chief executive of Gucci, emphasized that by underwriting the evening’s costs, all profits and pledges would go directly to Raising Malawi, Madonna’s charity, and to the Unicef Schools for Africa effort. Since 2005 Gucci has supported programs in Malawi and Mozambique for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS
With the fate of the Oscars – and particularly its social functions – still in question, this New York gathering was a stellar celebrity event, although the focus was not on the clothes but on the speakers, who included Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Matthew Chikaonda of Malawi; the actress Lucy Liu; and Madonna herself, whose aim is to create in Malawi, by 2010, an academy offering education to girls.
Madonna wore Gucci – a discreet gray crepe jersey – made especially by Giannini, who also created the shoes for Madonna’s daughter Lourdes. Those shoes tapped as Lourdes waved her glow stick during the auction and when the singer Rihanna rocked. But the performance that stole the show was from the African Children’s Choir, which opened the evening’s celebrations with innocent enthusiasm and raised cheers from the most sophisticated members of the entertainment industry.
From an article by Suzy Menkes, the International Herald Tribune.