January 05, 2012
Courtesy Stella McCartney.
High-minded meets high fashion in Stella McCartney’s new snake-inspired designs. Her new python-print tote bag and flat sandal are handmade by Kenyan women from recycled African-tent canvases. The items support the Ethical Fashion Programme (a joint venture between the World Trade Organization and the United Nations), which connects international fashion houses and distributors with disadvantaged African communities to develop a sustainable livelihood for thousands of women living in extreme poverty. It’s not lifelong-vegetarian Stella McCartney’s first foray into charity work—her past projects have included MeatFree Monday and the PPR Foundation for Women’s Dignity and Rights—but it’s certainly newsworthy. As for the rest of us, a look that’s both fashionable and virtuous? Yes, please. Large tote bag $330; flat sandal $300; available at Stella McCartney stores; stellamccartney.com.
April 05, 2012
Inspirato, the online company that connects travelers with luxury vacation properties, has just launched a new division that will help people make charitable giving a part of their travel plans. The new site, inspiredgiving.com, asks travelers to make a $2,000 donation to any charity in the company’s list of partners—which includes The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Step Up Women’s Network, Malaria No More and dozens of other organizations. The site then grants them access to Inspirato’s portfolio of multimillion-dollar vacation rentals at members-only prices. Choices include a four-bedroom Tuscan villa surrounded by olive groves, which comes with a private chef and sommelier; or a lodge in Aspen with a gourmet kitchen, ski-in/ski-out access and a private hot tub. All properties come with an on-site destination concierge, who can handle everything from pre-stocking the fridge to booking a tee time. It’s vacation-meets-virtue for the digital age. inspiredgiving.com
July 05, 2012
Courtesy 31 Bits
Back in 2007, Kallie Dovel, the founder of jewelry line 31 Bits, traveled as a student to northern Uganda, where she met an inspiring group of local women who were using their creative skills to make magnificent handmade beads made of nothing but 100 percent recyclable paper. Unfortunately, they lacked any sort of plan to market and sell their dynamic pieces of jewelry. So Dovel brought a box of their pieces back with her to the United States and spent the next year coming up with the concept that would become 31 Bits. Now, the artisans are empowered to rise above poverty and provide for their families, receiving invaluable financial training and health-care education. Since Dovel’s initial visit, 31 Bits has brought more than 100 Ugandan women into the fold.
The process behind making the jewelry is simple: strips of recycled paper—which comes from a variety of different sources, including old magazines and text books—are rolled into different shapes and designs and dipped into non-toxic varnish. Hollywood has taken notice (celebrities like Jessica Alba, Kathy Griffin and Giuliana Rancic are fans), and Kathy Lee Gifford has already worn her favorite designs numerous times on the Today show. Like all jewelry collections, everything is seasonal—expect to see the fall 2012 line launch in September and the newest wedding collection debut in October. 31bits.com
October 25, 2012
Peter Rymwid Architectural Photography
For five weeks every fall, the Upper East Side’s Academy Mansion comes alive during its annual Holiday House fundraiser—a design showcase benefiting breast cancer awareness and research.
This year’s installment (opening October 25) brought together more than 25 designers, including Charlotte Moss, Eric Cohler, Stephanie Odegard and Vicente Wolf, who each got a room in the 91-year-old manse to decorate. Inspiration flowed. Carefully placed piles of bird seed and a chicken-coop light fixture steals the show in the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” room on the ground floor, while an ode to Alexander McQueen took up the carnivale-themed dining room. On the fourth floor, a room called “A Holiday Luncheon and Gift Exchange Hosted by a Modern Day Marie Antoinette” comes complete with a glittering chandelier affixed with dozens of female fairies.
While many of the designers conceptualized their rooms for weeks or even months, the physical implementation of their ideas came together in just a few days. “It’s a madhouse, but in a good way,” says Suzanne Easton, whose “Origins of Life,” a birthday-themed studiolo, is awash with moody blues and greens and features a Garden of Eden–inspired serpent rug. “There’s a lot of camaraderie.” Admission, $30; October 25 through November 18; 2 E. 63rd St.; 212-472-3313; holidayhousenyc.com.
January 02, 2013
© Courtesy of Aspen Charity Bracelet
Launched just in time for this past holiday rush, the Aspen Charity Bracelet (from $695) makes a slopeside style statement with a modern cutout of the iconic peaks of Maroon Bells. In support of the surrounding area, a portion of all bracelet sales benefits the Aspen Valley Land Trust, which sustains the pristine open spaces in western Colorado.
Jenny Lee Walsh, the local jewelry designer behind the piece, was inspired by her mother’s tradition of collecting charms throughout their travels. When Walsh relocated to Colorado, she wanted something to mark her next chapter. “I was really looking for a unique piece in line with my personal aesthetic, but didn’t have much luck beyond the signature Aspen leaf,” she says. “It was the perfect time to design my own.”
The look is modern, simple and classic. Yellow- or rose-gold charms are paired with satin cords in colors like caviar black, sable tan and midnight blue. In addition to a diamond inlay, Walsh also offers black diamonds and emeralds to give the charms “a bit more edge.”
Additional inspiration for the bracelet came from Dr. (William) Scholl, the late foot-care pioneer who also happens to be Walsh’s great uncle. An avid traveler, “Uncle Doc” brought back baubles from around the world. “He was also a craftsman, which not many people know, and made amazing leather and metal jewelry,” she says. “Some of my most cherished pieces from my personal collection are from him.” aspencharitybracelet.com.
April 25, 2013
TOMS Haiti Artist Collective, Pierre's Sketch Night Men's Classics, $68.00, available exclusively at TOMS.com. Photo courtesy of TOMS
TOMS—the philanthropic shoe company that promises to donate a new pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased—is at it again. The brand’s latest initiative is the Haiti Artist Collective, a line of colorful, one-of-a-kind shoes ($68 a pair) hand-painted by Haitian artists between the ages of 18 and 45 and inspired by traditional Haitian art. The two-part collection launched its first line in March (a second line of styles is scheduled for July), and was created in conjunction with Caribbean Craft, a Port-au-Prince–based organization that supports local artisans. The initiative is intended to drive economic growth on the island of Haiti, which has had one of the world’s highest unemployment rates since 2010, when an earthquake devastated the area. Founder Blake Mycoskie says the crux of the project is the “potential of creating sustainable jobs and highlighting creative talent.” Sounds like a very worthy goal.
For more on the artists behind TOMS new line, click here. Limited-edition collection available at the TOMS Los Angeles flagship, 1344 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; 310-314-9700; toms.com.
October 17, 2013
Courtesy of Dream for Future Africa
On October 24, the Dream for Future Africa Foundation, founded by Gelila Assefa Puck, will host a gala at Spago Beverly Hills (176 N. Canon Dr.; for tickets, call 310-205-2549; dffaf.org). There will be toasting and special guests (Naomi Campbell and Amber Valetta included), but the heart of the event will be a mission: to offer opportunities and equal treatment to those in need in Africa, particularly children and families.
Following the lead of its first vocational training center in Aleltu, Ethiopia—which opened last month and helps students navigate the space between traditional schooling and a professional work life—the organization is currently focused on opening a series of centers throughout the continent. “It means a lot to be able to give them a promising future into adulthood,” says Assefa Puck (pictured above, seated in the middle), who is married to chef Wolfgang Puck. We chatted with her about the vision.
Q: What prompted you to start Dream for Future Africa?
A: It was established in 2010. Prior to 2010 I had been supporting a school in a small village outside Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Back then the school had 21 children. Today that school serves over 700 orphans. The idea for the vocational training center was born as the first children we enrolled in the lower school were graduating high school. The foundation’s purpose is for the children who do not make it into a university obtain skilled training to help them transition into a career so they can provide for their families.
Q: How far has the organization come since its inception?
A: In 2011 we did a groundbreaking with the help of the Annenberg Foundation to build the first phase of the vocational training center. Today that building is fully completed and the first round of high-school graduates enrolled in courses for communication technology, garment manufacturing, textile and sewing. Our mission is to create additional programs to help create sustainability for these children’s future.
Q: What has touched you the most since you started this?
A: It is touching to watch these children, who I have helped support since kindergarten, graduate from high school and then be able to secure next steps to their future.
Q: And what have you learned?
A: In Africa a little goes a long way, which is empowering.