CHAR­ITY BY DE­SIGN

Through­out his ca­reer, Michael Kors has spent time help­ing those less for­tu­nate

Edmonton Journal - - YOU - ALEE­SHA HAR­RIS ahar­ris@post­media.com Post­media was a guest of Michael Kors in New York. The brand nei­ther re­viewed nor ap­proved this ar­ti­cle.

Michael Kors vividly re­mem­bers the mo­ment when he first heard about the char­ity God’s Love We De­liver.

“Back in the late ’80s, my busi­ness was small, I was young, and the AIDS cri­sis hit in ev­ery ma­jor city in the world. Es­pe­cially in the fash­ion cap­i­tals,” he re­calls. “And, at the time, friends were sick, neigh­bours were sick, peo­ple you worked with were sick.”

As a young de­signer, Kors was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­ter­con­nected with peo­ple in the New York City fash­ion com­mu­nity, many of whom were also at a loss for how they could help.

“You re­ally had no idea about how to help or what to do,” he says. “And, like most fash­ion peo­ple, I’m def­i­nitely not a sci­en­tist. And, at the time, there were no drugs, noth­ing. Ev­ery­one just said, ‘ What can we do? What can we do?’”

Through a friend, Kors learned about how a small, grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­at­ing out of the base­ment of a church was help­ing to de­liver meals to sick peo­ple in their homes in the five bor­oughs of New York.

At first, Kors says he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that this cri­sis could be so close to home.

“I said, ‘In New York? One of the rich­est places in the world?’” he re­calls.

He learned that the meal re­cip­i­ents were those who had be­come sick and lost their jobs. Many were left alone, aban­doned by their fam­ily and friends, and didn’t have ac­cess to, or some­times lacked money for food. Kors knew he had to help.

“I re­mem­ber the first time I de­liv­ered a meal to some­one’s house,” he says.

“When I walked in, I re­al­ized that we were the only peo­ple that they saw. They didn’t see any­one. They had no friends and no fam­ily. Ev­ery­one had left. And you ar­rived with the meal and their face just lit up.”

Kors has been a part of God’s Love We De­liver ever since.

Sit­ting in a large meet­ing room on the fifth floor of the Michael Kors Build­ing at God’s Love We De­liver in New York City, Kors talks pas­sion­ately about the pro­gram, as well as his own ini­tia­tive, Watch Hunger Stop.

Mean­while, a few floors be­low in an in­dus­trial-sized kitchen, black­hat­ted vol­un­teers scurry about, busily chop­ping veg­eta­bles, prep­ping food con­tain­ers and pack­ag­ing the more than 5,400 meals that are de­liv­ered ev­ery week­day, all year to those liv­ing with lifeal­ter­ing ill­nesses such as AIDS, cancer and Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

“The vol­un­teers here in the build­ing are truly angels,” Kors says.

“There are some who have been here for 25 years. They ’re truly re­mark­able peo­ple.”

His work with the New York Ci­ty­based pro­gram prompted Kors to be­come more in­volved in hunger ini­tia­tives, even­tu­ally set­ting up the Watch Hunger Stop cam­paign five years ago in an ef­fort to take hunger-fight­ing, com­mu­ni­ty­build­ing prac­tices to a global level.

“I saw it here with God’s Love, and then the need grew and grew and grew. And God’s Love grew and grew and grew,” Kors re­calls.

“And then I started trav­el­ling be­cause my busi­ness be­came more global. In the late ’90s, when I started go­ing to Paris for Ce­line, I started trav­el­ling back and forth and I re­al­ized we’re all in this to­gether.

“It’s em­pa­thy for your neigh­bour, not just here across the street, but also for your neigh­bour around the world. It seemed that the one thing, un­for­tu­nately, that was a prob­lem ev­ery­where around the world was the idea of nutri­tion and hunger.”

Via his part­ner­ship with the United Na­tions World Food Pro­gram, all funds raised through Watch Hunger Stop go to sup­port the WFP’s school meal pro­grams around the world. In ad­di­tion to fight­ing hunger, Kors is par­tic­u­larly proud of the ef­fect the pro­gram has on avail­abil­ity of ed­u­ca­tion for young girls.

“Par­ents, es­pe­cially with girls, in many cities and many coun­tries, they won’t send their daugh­ter to school un­less there is a free meal,” he says. “So sud­denly there’s a free meal and she goes to school be­cause the par­ents say ‘OK, she has a meal.’ But then, she also gets an ed­u­ca­tion. And you change the whole cy­cle.”

These days, Kors im­plores peo­ple to see that help­ing peo­ple is es­sen­tial, re­gard­less of where you live in the world.

“The world is not so dis­tant any­more,” he says. “We’re all in this to­gether ... we all have to give back. And I don’t think a lot of peo­ple re­al­ize what they can do. They say ‘Oh, I’m not rich. I’m busy. I’ve got my own chil­dren. I have a busy life, I can’t.’

“I feel very lucky ... and when you are lucky, you have to give back. Au­to­mat­i­cally,” Kors says. “But it’s hard, though, for peo­ple who don’t feel lucky in their own life to give back. And that’s what we are try­ing to re­mind peo­ple: We’re all lucky. Ev­ery­one. If you can af­ford $5 for cof­fee, you’re lucky.”

Kors is a savvy busi­ness­man. One who can eas­ily ac­knowl­edge that peo­ple will of­ten give more if they get a lit­tle some­thing back, even if it’s just ex­tra likes and shares on so­cial me­dia.

Per­haps it’s this knowl­edge that has made his ini­tia­tive-ben­e­fit­ing prod­ucts, like his lim­ited-edi­tion T-shirts and the Watch Hunger Run­way Watch, such a hit with his cus­tomers.

“It has made 17.6 mil­lion meals pos­si­ble in this short pe­riod of time,” he says of the prod­ucts and so­cial shar­ing. “We couldn’t have done this with­out so­cial me­dia, at this speed.”

In fact, it was so­cial me­dia that also led Kors and his team to Eli Sud­brack, the artist collaborator for this year’s T-shirt de­sign.

Kors thought the artist’s colour­ful de­signs would be a welcome de­par­ture for a char­ity de­sign ben­e­fit­ing world hunger ini­tia­tives; one that was bright, vi­brant and op­ti­mistic.

“I re­mem­ber when I was grow­ing up when you saw things about hunger it was al­ways so sad,” says Kors.

“And I wanted to say, ‘No, we can make zero a pos­i­tive thing. We can make it up­beat.’ But, also, so­cially I knew his art would look amaz­ing on the phone. So we would get peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.”

Kors do­nates the full pro­ceeds and 100 meals through the WFP with the sale of each watch or Tshirt.

And, for each selfie shared us­ing the hash­tag #WatchHungerS­top, the de­signer do­nates an ad­di­tional 100 meals. It’s an ex­tra step of the pro­gram he’s con­fi­dent most peo­ple will be able to ful­fil.

“Twenty years ago peo­ple had very few pho­to­graphs of them­selves. Now ev­ery­one has too many pic­tures of them­selves,” he says with a laugh. “For the first time, you say to your­self, well, with­out so­cial me­dia this couldn’t hap­pen.”

Last year, the WFP fed 18 mil­lion chil­dren in 60 coun­tries.

And this year, Kors would like to in­crease that num­ber. Ex­po­nen­tially.

“I’m com­pet­i­tive,” he says with a wry smile. “And the re­al­ity is that we are fur­ther along, as far as the amount of meals that we’ve served. We’re al­most at 18 mil­lion meals in five years, which was not on the agenda.”

Ac­cord­ing to Kors, the World Food Pro­gram be­lieves that by 2030, there can be zero global hunger.

But Kors would like to see them move up that goal and reach it by 2025.

“I think it’s just con­tin­u­ing to make the noise,” he says. And, of course, shar­ing.

They had no friends and no fam­ily. Ev­ery­one had left. And you ar­rived with the meal and their face just lit up.

DIM­ITRIOS KAM­BOURIS/GETTY IMAGES

Michael Kors has been in­volved with the or­ga­ni­za­tion God’s Love We De­liver since the 1980s and has ex­panded his ef­forts with his own ini­tia­tives.

MICHAEL KORS

Singer and ac­tress Hailee Ste­in­feld mod­els the Michael Kors Watch Hunger Stop cam­paign fundrais­ing T-shirt.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.