Vivienne Westwood and Firelight Join Forces for Africa
June 4 to July 4th, Modewalk is donating 10% of sales from the Vivienne Westwood Africa line to Firelight. Here's a glimpse behind the scenes with Jacques Pantazes, the man who made it all happen, who tells us why he's supporting Firelight and our work with community partners. Tell us a little bit about you...who is Jacques Pantazes and Modewalk?
I wear many hats at Modewalk! My formal title is Chief Merchandising Officer. In essence this means that I curate the entire site from top to bottom and personally pick and quality control every item for sale or to order on the site. My standards are extremely high. We pride ourselves at Modewalk on providing extraordinary value by offering some of the most coveted items in the world exclusively, often not available anywhere else in North America.
What inspired you to provide 10% of all sales from the Vivienne Westwood Africa collection to Firelight?
I personally have a longstanding relationship with the Vivienne Westwood brand: I remember shopping the iconic World's End boutique in the King's Road in London when I was 16! I still wear many of these things. I believe in longevity. Clothes are made to be worn, and they should be timeless at all costs. Vivienne Westwood has always made the most of her fame to distill messages to the world: Important messages. She is quite fearless this way, and I respect that immensely. Her dedication to Planet Preservation and to the African Cause is something that I believe enriches her brand profile. It empowers the consumer to participate in distilling some very important ideals, as opposed to the more banal messages of wealth and social status.
Why did you choose to partner with Firelight?
Firelight has always been a charity that is dear to my heart. I have been to a couple of Firelight events, and hearing people in Africa speak about the conditions they face, and how Firelight has impacted these comfortably, and effectively for them, is truly an unforgettable experience everyone should have at least once. We all tend to easily slide into our own personal bubbles, living in denial of some of the harsh realities of the world. When you have a Community Leader in front of you explaining the before, and the after, of a situation where Firelight has been active, you can't quite walk away the same person you were when you walked in.
The mere fact that Firelight chooses to empower the people, in order that these people make changes in ways that mold a perfect cultural fit, is enormous. Believing in Firelight is believing that people in dire need are being succored in ways that work for them, not by means that may benefit some other factor. It is this inherent integrity and sense of cultural respect that makes Firelight an intelligent and worthy cause for me. Whatever I do, or whatever I may give to Firelight, I do so knowing that 100% of my efforts or funds are going exactly where they need to go, and helping in a way that I personally find appealing. A synonym for Firelight, from my point of view, is "Respect." I believe in that.
Tell us a little bit about the Vivienne Westwood Africa line?
Because Vivienne Westwood has been active in Africa-centric charitable work, and in fact their entire range "Africa" is 100% made in Kenya of local materials by people there and Vivienne Westwood donates all profits from this segment of her business back to those communities, I thought it would be a natural thing for us to celebrate Firelight on our site in the same spirit. Vivienne Westwood has a singular capacity to very naturally transcend Fashion: While obviously never boring, Vivienne Westwood creates clothes and accessories that are exciting, dramatic, thought provoking...even irreverent, yet somehow never look dated. This palpable sense of irreverence is something that I feel is very empowering. When you invest in Vivienne Westwood, you invest in Independent Spirit, and means to express your own individuality as you see fit.
How do you feel about the partnership between fashion and the social sector? Is it important?
Clothes are powerful. This is something I feel escapes more people than it should. I try to imbue this message into the DNA of Modewalk, where we avoid negative messages of Fear and Hatred. I would want anyone on Modewalk to feel a sense of excitement and the thrill of joy that comes with a rare glimpse into the Closed Club of European High Fashion, before feeling threatened or intimidated, the way they might be by typical Fashion Editorial.
In the same spirit, clothes are just as powerful as tools to make statements about important situations that may concern the wearer: Vivienne Westwood's "Climate Revolution" T-shirts are obvious examples, but there are others. The Apparel Industry is indeed powerful, alluring, and a kind of magnet for attention: As such I feel it is a natural fit when used as a conduit for Social Change. Think about it: Every major Cultural Revolution has come equipped with its' own set of "Fashion Statements." Is there any denying this power?
How have people responded to the campaign?
Favorably. We hope to make Firelight a mainstay on Modewalk, and to renew this collaboration every season. Firelight supporters who make any purchase on our site, be it Vivienne Westwood or not, as long as they remember to include the code "Firelight" at check out, will help to ensure that our collaboration continues, and grows, which is my long term goal.