- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

While the Big Apple is taking a bite out of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Washington has some stylish — not to mention philanthropic — events of its own.

Fashion Fights Poverty — a locally based organization that raises awareness of and funding for globally conscious designers and the fight against global hunger — will rock the runways Sept. 25 at the Mayflower Hotel with special cause for celebration. In addition to marking its fifth anniversary uniting fashion with charitable giving, the group recently achieved 501(c)3 status, allowing its supporters to make tax-deductible donations.

Since 2005, FFP’s fashion show catwalk has featured eco-conscious and socially aware designs. Proceeds from the show are given to a variety of poverty-related causes, such as the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Development Program; total past donations come to more than $40,000. This time around, event organizers tell The Washington Times that proceeds from ticket sales will be used on FFP’s new community outreach programs, especially those involving young people.

According to Elaine Mensah, the fashion director and vice president of production for FFP, “We want to be seen as community- and youth-based. Fashion can have a deeper meaning and can change lives.”

One of the designers in the show, Taimur Baig of Mirza Mperial, explains that FFP shines the spotlight on people like him who use natural fabrics and create their designs in the United States using seamstresses who are paid and treated well.

“At the end of the day, fashion is not going to help you if you or someone in your family is sick, but events like this show how fashion can give back and how designers can be ethical and responsible people. We don’t always put our profits first,” Mr. Baig says.

To reach FFP’s goal of making fashion a force for good, Ms. Mensah and the other eight full-time staff volunteers of FFP are developing a fashion competition in which high school fashion students will create garments from eco-friendly materials judged by a FFP panel. Contest winners will receive a scholarship, media exposure and the opportunity to be featured in next September’s fashion show.

FFP also plans to expand its role as a disseminator of information. Ms. Mensah stressed that the organization will do more seminars, classes and workshops on “ethical brands, fabrics and retailers,” and how people can make their own clothes.

Wednesday at L2 lounge, there is a launch party for the FFP Look Book hosted by Kate Michael, the well-known blogger for K Street Kate. The $20 Look Book is a glossy catalog featuring photographs of professional models wearing the show’s designs.

On Tuesday, FFP is presenting a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Mensah at the Historical Society of America with several fashion industry insiders on trends in eco-fashion and the growth in fashion-related charities, as part of a series of events built around the show.

After the fashion show on Sept. 25, Midtown Loft is throwing an after-party with CW personality and fashion guru Paul Wharton as ringleader.

Tickets for the FFP show start at $75 and can be purchased at www.fashion fightspoverty.org.

Suited for charity

Men’s Wearhouse Inc., the discount suit retailer, is partnering with 200 nonprofits across 44 states on a month-long campaign to give 150,000 used and donated suits to men trying to find work or re-enter the workforce.

Cynthia Stewart, the director of corporate giving for Men’s Wearhouse explains to The Washington Times that often men’s sartorial needs are overlooked, but having a new suit for an interview or new job is just as important for men as women.

Ms. Stewart explains that jackets, trousers and dress shirts can be dropped off at any Men’s Wearhouse location, and the clothing will be given to an area organization that helps people who are down on their luck.

For every suit that is given to an area nonprofit, Men’s Wearhouse is donating a new tie “to help complete the outfit, as well as offer donors a 10 percent discount coupon in gratitude for their generosity,” Ms. Stewart says.

Last year, the first suit drive gathered 125,000 professional items over a two-month period. For information or to make a donation, visit www.nationalsuitdrive.com.

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