Contributing with style: American designers raise $280,000 for Japan

More than 100 fashion designers came together in New York, USA, this past April, raising $280,000 for those affected by the March 11th earthquake/tsunami in Japan.

Fashion Girls for Japan held its two day 60+ Designers/60+ Rolling Racks sample sale event, featuring clothing from designers across New York this April. The event raised $280,000 for earthquake/tsunami survivors, with all of the proceeds going toward the Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund, the Red Cross, and New York City’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

According to their website, fashiongirlsforjapan.com, one of the organizers, Kyoko Kageyama, was in Japan when the 9.0 earthquake hit. Other organizers for the event had family and friends in Japan that they were unable to reach as they watchedthe devastation on the news. Shortly after the earthquake/tsunami, the idea for Fashion Girls for Japan and the 60+ Designers/60+ Rolling Racks event was born.

“After the earthquake hit March 11th, for the first week or two we were watching TV as things unfolded. We all thought, including myself, that it seemed like there was nothing we could do from New York,” said Kikka Hanazawa, organizer for Fashion Girls for Japan and president of fashion label VPL. “I had a relative close to the area where the nuclear plant is and we haven’t been able to reach the relative. I have my family close to the nuclear plant, so every day we were starting to get a little word about the disaster.

“Also, we felt that the magnitude of the disaster was staggering. Watching TV, 300,000 people displaced, and the [death] toll, which is increasing still, obviously over 10,000 people, and over 15,000 missing, we felt there must be something we can do if we can get together.”

Shortly after, Hanazawa and other organizers started reaching out to their contacts within the New York Fashion Industry. Hanazawa stressed that Fashion Girls for Japan specifically looked for help from smaller designers because they felt that bigger designers were doing other things to help the people of Japan.

“I called several people who I know very well, and reached out to other people. So in the end, we had about 70 people who really wanted to chip in, they wanted to come and help,” said Hanazawa. “Not just Japanese people, but other people who I have worked with closely in the past.

“We also felt that, before everybody started forgetting about what was going on, we wanted to do it quickly and create an opportunity where a lot of people could bring in what they could do. The designers would bring in clothes to donate. A lot of the designers who participated are not big designers. We didn’t actually go to big-name designers because we felt they could do something on their own. They didn’t need our help to facilitate an opportunity for them to participate.”

After reaching out to their friends in the fashion community, Fashion Girls for Japan decided to accept clothing donations from various designers which they would sell at a large event, donating 100 percent of the profits toward relief efforts in Japan.

“We asked for what we call special samples, special meaning one of a kind, or showroom samples that they used for selling, some of the excess inventory,”said Hanazawa. “We asked for up to 50 units per designer. We didn’t want to ask for too many, we didn’t want too many units, because that would be too much of a burden on the designer. Over 6,000 units have been donated.”With clothing contributions from nearly 100 designers and the Bowery Hotel contributing their 8,000 square foot Bowery Terrace, everything was in place. Fashion Girls for Japan even came up with a design of their own, a T-shirt bearing the logo “I O NY”

“That design was created by our creative directors, Magnus Berger and Tenzin Wild, who are the publishers of The Last Magazine,” said Hanazawa. “When I asked them, they came back immediately and said, ‘Yeah, we would like to help.'”

Because the design was modeledafter the famous “I Love NY” T-shirt,they had to get permission from thestate of New York before they could sell it.

“Obviously this logo is a version of “I Love New York” and it’s a trademark owned by New York State,” said Hanazawa. “So we actually had to reach out to New York State to get permission to use this logo for this charity. Despite all of the bureaucratic process that you need to go through, they made a decision very quickly.”

While nearly 2,000 people showed up to the 60+ Designers/60+ Rolling Racks event, raising $280,000 for relief efforts in Japan, effects are already being felt across the world as a group in Japan is reportedly planning to hold a similar event of their own.

“This inspired other people to do the same,” said Hanazawa. “There was an event, same name, in Tokyo over the weekend, this past weekend. They raised about $200,000.

“It inspired them to do the same over in Tokyo. We’re not related but we actually sent out leftover products to Tokyo and they sold out almost everything.”

(Editor’s note: The print version of this article stated that amount raised was $275,000, this was incorrect and shortly after we were informed that Fashion Girls for Japan had raised $280,000)

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