Clothing designers pitch in to save the world

October 09, 1991|By Anjetta McQueen | Anjetta McQueen,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Want to save the world?

Go shopping.

Yes, shopping.

On the newest front in the war against the world's ills, many fashion designers and retailers are lending their creations to various causes.

Armed with credit card and checkbook, consumers can fight the good fight with silk shirts for the rain forest or tie-dyed socks for victims of the AIDS virus.

Linda Allard, who designs the Ellen Tracy line, will be breaking the planet-on-a-T-shirt mode this fall with a rain forest print collection that includes an oversized silk blouse priced at $305. Allard will set aside $5 from each sale for her Foundation for the Environment.

Yet Kenar Enterprises, a New York retailer and manufacturer, has brought high fashion to the lowly T-shirt -- with help from popular fashion model Linda Evangelista.

Last month, Evangelista helped Kenar unveil a Times Square billboard as part of a gala for Ads Against AIDS, a Madison Avenue group formed to help educate people about the disease.

A T-shirt of the billboard, which features a blond Evangelista dressed in a selection from Kenar's fall 1991 collection, will be sold for $25, a portion of which will go to Ads Against AIDS.

Kenar hopes to raise a million dollars through the shirt campaign, said president Kenneth Zimmerman.

Bob Starr, an Ads for AIDS board director, thinks the campaign will be successful.

"There's an obvious following for Linda," said Starr, noting the large turnout on Times Square for the billboard event.

And the popularity of supporting these worthy causes has been gaining. But trendy or not, statistics show that the world is certainly in need of some help.

As of August, 191,601 AIDS cases have been reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

In 1970, there was a new endangered species every day; now there is one every hour, says the World Wildlife Fund.

And according to the Rainforest Action Network, 45,000 square miles of rain forest is destroyed by pollution and chain saws each year.

Last month, R&R Imports, a Denver jewelry retailer, introduced a menagerie in silver and 14-karat gold to benefit endangered animals. While the necklaces, earrings and other pieces -- more than 5,000 of them -- include endangered animals such as rhinos, whales, elephants and sea turtles, there are also horses, rabbits and pigs. And then there is the on-again, off-again buffalo, which apparently is off the list now, said Kent Rieder, R&R Imports vice president.

Nonetheless, 2 percent of sales of all the little creatures is donated to wildlife causes, Rieder said. Prices range from $10 silver elephant earrings to a $240 gold buffalo necklace on a 30-inch chain.

Despite the increase in need, causes and supporters, some people still have a word for all the concern -- advertising.

"I know causes tend to be trendy and animals are a popular cause, but it's a real worthwhile cause," Rieder said.

And, sure, the Ads for AIDS billboard has given Kenar a lot of publicity, Starr said.

"The flip side is that Kenar gave me a check for $25,000," he said. "They deserve the publicity."

Though all the galas, models and billboards might seem nothing more than gloss from the outside, the motivation to help is strong and sincere, Starr said.

For some designers, helping is nothing new.

Since 1985, profits from E.G. Smith Socks' line of tie-dyed boot socks have supported groups from Boston to Los Angeles that care for people with AIDS and AIDS-related complex. The latest beneficiary is the Manhattan Center for Living, a New York outreach center for people with the disease.

Sock designer Eric Smith's all-cotton, slouch-look socks come in various blends of rich tie-dyed color, such as this fall's appropriately named Rhapsody in Blue, and sell for about $20.

The fight against AIDS has been a steady one for Smith, said Jeffrey Heminway, public relations director for E.G. Smith Socks.

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