Changing the Face of Fashion, One Show, Step and Canine At a Time

by Olivia Snyder ’12

Over the years, the fashion industry has gotten itself a bad rep, particularly in the wake of controversies over models’ and workers’ well-being. Even in a profession with a reputation of narcissism, a few companies in the D.C. area are doing their best to change this perception; among these are organizations like Fashion Fights Poverty, the Tiger Lily Foundation, and Fashion for Paws.

Fashion Fights Poverty (FFP), created by Michael Dumlao, is a charitable organization that, according to their mission statement, “features national and international designers who employ ethical means and practices in their design and manufacturing processes to produce products that promote economic development and the betterment of a given community.”

Essentially, FFP is an organization dedicated to recognizing designers and organizations that do their jobs while practicing fair trade, equitable compensation and the use of environmentally-friendly materials. Through marketing and word of mouth, FFP also maintains a goal of informing and working together with the consumer in order to eliminate poverty through a manufacturer-consumer relationship. FFP frequently puts together large fashion shows and sponsors many photo shoots showcasing their designers to raise awareness for their cause; it is one of the most well known charity fashion organizations in the DC area.

The TigerLily Foundation, created by Maimah Karmo, is similar in that it too holds fashion shows to raise money and awareness for their charitable cause. However, the Tigerlily foundation represents women suffering from breast cancer; it educates, advocates for, empowers and provides hands-on services to young women age 15-40, before, during and after breast cancer.

Karmo, a breast cancer survivor herself, has dedicated her life to helping young women around the world. She is a speaker that has appeared in various media outlets, including O, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, Cure Magazine and more. She has also been featured on Fox 5, ABC 7, CBS, “the Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America” and numerous national radio stations.

Fashion for Paws is a bit different in both its fashion shows and the cause it works for. The organization raises money for the Humane Society while putting together fashion shows with both the human and canine species alike. At every runway show, well known D.C. models walk with fashionable canine companions. Fashion for Paws incorporates cutting-edge fashion and luxury brand events to draw large crowd of VIP’s, fashion and animal lovers alike.

Founder Tara de Nicolas started the group in 2006 when she and friends got the idea to organize a fashion show for the Washington Humane Society. She describes her true inspiration for continuing and expanding the organization as a result of studying other similar charities. “I looked at Youth Aids and their marketing and fundraising model,” said de Nicolas. “It was outside of the box and brilliant. I then tried to think of how we could apply something outside the box and unique to Washington Humane Society.”

Every road to a successful charity is a tough one, and for Fashion for Paws this was no exception; however, after four long years the organization finally raised one million dollars for the Washington Humane Society and has an ever brighter future ahead.

Each Fashion for Paws event usually sells out to 1,500 attendees and includes a reception, gala dinner and fashion show, as well as a fundraising competition with each model raising $3,000 to walk the runway. Models wear designers like Betsey Johnson, Karen Millen and Anthropologie and walk with dogs courtesy of the Humane Society in an effort to make their message that much harder to ignore.

Because of Fashion for Paws’ originality and creativity in money raising methods, it is one of the more well known and successful charitable fashion organizations in the D.C. area. Nicolas has high hopes for her organization and truly believes that, at the rate she is going, the group‘s goals are completely attainable, “Not only do I hope to eventually raise a million dollars every year, but I am also working hard at scoring an ‘A’ list celebrity participant as well,” said Nicolas.