Imagine stepping into a lavishing decorated room containing hundreds of elegantly dressed individuals of various nationalities, all receiving heartwarming afrobeat music by Fela Kuti while eating, drinking and chatting away in distinct groups about the one cause that brought them together; saving lives.? If this scenery isn’t too difficult to conceive, than it is safe to say that one can only half conceptualize the United Nations Club of Berkeley College’s event that occurred at the Marquee Club on the evening of April 15, 2009.
This event which was referred to as the “2 Make a Net charity fashion show” was both a competition and auction to raise money to get mosquito nets for children dying from malaria in Africa. To make this event the success that it was, the United Nations Club founded by Berkeley senior Iva Lordanova partnered up with the nonprofit organization Malaria No More to auction off accessories, and unique evening dresses designed by students from The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and Parson. A silent auction that featured works by award-winning photographer Alan Kaplan and National Museum of Women in the Arts artist Aleathia Brown was also held. At the end of the day, three winning designs were to be chosen by five judges to be given and altered to the likings of the highest bidders.
To set the evening off, the show was started with a very energetic spirit of Africa dance by Karen Niceley that had the crowd wooing.? The remaining of the evening after that was nothing short of magnificent. As three African drummers beat their instruments, the fashion show began. One by one, the models marched to their own interpretation of the beat while showing off the inventive attires made by their various designers.
As the fashion show rounded up, people were given an opportunity to place their final bids, and judges were given some time to tally up their scores. While some took this time to check out the various artwork displayed in all corners of the room, others decided to use their time to mingle and discuss the event.? It seemed that many were taken aback by the concept of using Fashion, something that mostly everyone is familiar with as a tool of fundraising.
“I love fashion, it is my life, and I hate to hear about death, especially children’s death, so when I heard that fashion is going to be used as a means to save the lives of millions of children dying from malaria, I just could not resist it. I knew that I had to be a part of that movement, so I found out more information”, said Valeska Cochamanidis, a Berkeley Student on the stylist team for the event.
Cochamanidis is not the only one however that felt this way. Several other guest believed that the use of fashion and art as means of raising money for a cause to eradicate malaria was quite genius.
“Every 30 seconds, a child in Africa is killed by malaria. Every day, thousands are killed, and we are in a position to help prevent these deaths.? Every ten dollars that we raise buys a mosquito net, and every ten dollars that we collect saves a life.? So why not collect in a fashionable and entertaining way? Why not auction of clothing to raise money? The idea is perfect” exclaimed Lily Sidorovich, senior Vice President at Berkeley College.
With 20 pieces of beautifully created garments to choose from, the various designers along with guests gathered around to hear the announcements of the top three designers. The winning design, which was an elegant dress made out of yellow lace material with blue lining, and a matching head tie by Vikki Nulman was awarded based on the total look. This attire did not just win first place, it also won the people’s choice awards because it had the most bids. The second award was given based on visionary creativity to Genevieve Hattanberg whose design was inspired by the ancient Egyptians. Sheila Gray won the spirit of Africa for the Africa theme award with her long and elegant evening dress, accessorized beautifully.
After these announcements, smiles of content spread across the room, but nothing could beat the priceless look on Lordanova’s face when a special guest Stephen Ruthonshin presented a check of $10,000 addressed to the make a net fashion show.
“We got way more than we bargained for, and we are very grateful, and appreciate everything” said Lordanova with a huge smirk on her face.
Ruthonshin was not the only special guest that donated huge sums. Others such as the Counsel General of Bangladesh Mr. Shamsul Haque, the Head of Chancery and Consulate General of India & New York Dr. Anju Kumar, Founding hosts/ producers of Current TV Mr. Max Lugavere and Mr. Jason Silva, US Olympian Basketball Silver Medalist Ms. Gail Marquis, and Fashion Industry Icon Ms. Alice Papazian all privately donated to the cause to save lives. Also, all through the evening, there were individuals carrying boxes around requesting for donations.
Therefore, the 2 make a net charity was more than just a successful event, it was, and is also a life changing occurrence for millions of children whose lives would have otherwise been cut short due to malaria. So imagine the feeling of leaving the Marquee Club knowing that you saved a life.
“Nothing can compare to this feeling right now. The feeling of knowing that all your hard work paid off. It took an entire year to organize this day, and I must say that every single hour, minute, and millisecond paid off because I know it was spent to make a difference…I am so happy that we accomplished getting the nets in style, because saving lives is always in style” an overly excited Lordanova exclaimed.