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Feature: Kors Cares — Michael Kors Takes On World Hunger


 

God's Love We Deliver. (L-R) Blaine Trump, Lance LePere, Michael Kors and John Idol

God's Love We Deliver. (L-R) Blaine Trump, Lance LePere, Michael Kors and John Idol

 

 

In honour of World Food Day we take a look at fashion designer’s Michael Kors fight to end hunger here at home and around the world. 

 


By: Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé 

Ottawa, Canada

 

What does putting an end to hunger look like?

 

Better seeds. Richer soil.  More nutritious crops.  Access to credit and markets by farmers.

 

And for American luxury designer Michael Kors: an awareness of hunger.

 

Hunger is a critical life-and-death issue.  And it can escalate fast.

 

In 2008, world food prices skyrocketed and the world’s hungry took to the streets to demand bread and rice.

 

In Bangladesh, police opened fire on 10, 000 garment workers striking for higher wages to pay for food; in Egypt, deadly fights broke out in bread queues, prompting then-President Hosni Mubarak to order the army to bake bread for the masses; in Haiti, when the hungry saw the price of their mud biscuits go up, they marched on parliament and sacked their prime minister; and in Vietnam and Thailand, rice farmers kept armed vigil over their fields after thieves started stripping crops overnight. 

 

There is good news: the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently published new numbers showing that hunger is trending downwards, but as the Kors Cares PSA makes it amply clear, 1 in 8 people still go to bed hungry every night (and according to some food experts, those living on the margins of hunger account for additional 1-2 out of 8 people).

 

Earlier this year, Kors signed a four-year partnership with the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) as part of the Watch Hunger Stop campaign to provide 5 million meals for school kids.  As he explained to the Associated Press, the Michael Kors brand has gone global, and so too has the company’s philanthropic efforts.

 

This isn’t Kors’ first foray into hunger – for over 20 years, Kors has supported God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD), a New York-based charity that seeks to improve the nutrition of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illness.

 

In April, Kors unveiled the US $295.00 100 Series watch, a stunning time piece available in two distinct designs and etched with a map of the world that brings home Watch Hunger Stop’s central missive: “1 WATCH = 100 MEALS.”

 

Michael Kors aimed to provide 1 million meals in the first year.  Kors exceeded that in less than six months and has now provided 1.5 million meals to school kids worldwide.

 

Beyond the watch, Kors takes his crusade to the streets of New York, Tokyo, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janeiro today, World Food Day, with a free Watch Hunger Stop t-shirt giveaway.  Tomorrow, t-shirt recipients will strike a pose like Watch Hunger Stop T-shirt models Lily Aldridge and Chanel Iman, encouraged to model their t-shirts by visiting participating Michael Kors stores and have their picture snapped in a Phhhoto Station.  Images will be streamed live all day and evening on billboards in New York City’s Times Square and WatchHungerStop.com.

 

 

#WatchHungerStop with Chanel Iman (left) andLily Aldridge

#Watch Hunger Stop with Chanel Iman (left) and Lily Aldridge

 

 

In his Associated Press interview, Kors explains: “’How do you make a lot of noise?’  Times Square, of course, and the Internet. So we’re using social media to bring everyone to Times Square, where they can help spread the word.”

 

“Not only is he (Kors) raising funds for millions of school meals for kids, but he is also spreading the word on how we can solve hunger,” says Bettina Luesher, spokesperson for the WFP.  “Connecting all these cities — from New York’s Time Square to Hong Kong — and people on World Food Day who are sending a message of hope with the T-Shirt means we reach new audiences we might normally not have reached.”

 

This is not the World Food Programme’s first fashionable collaboration – consider Lauren Bush Lauren’s line of Feed bags, including its fabulous artisanal line.  Or even their 2003 collaboration with United Colors of Benetton on the Food for Peace/Education/Work campaign.

 

To be sure, celebrity involvement in humanitarian causes are the objects of heated debates within international development circles – are they helpful? Do they oversimplify the problem?  Do they perpetuate racially charged dynamics and ugly stereotypes of the developing world?  Short answer: sometimes they do (read: backlash on a Bob Geldof classic).  But they can also force the public out of its complacency (read: Angelina Jolie’s work to shed light on the plight of Syria’s massive refugee crisis and George Clooney’s work to avert ethnic strife in Sudan).

 

Kors strikes the right balance – focusing on a cause he knows well and has long supported and by ensuring responsible visuals that focus on the 100 Series watch and Watch Hunger Stop t-shirt design.

 

Just as he brought his name to bear on the impact of God’s Love We Deliver’s work on AIDS, which decimated the fashion industry in the 1980s and 1990s, Kors now brings his brand to bear on some of the world’s hungry.  After all, some of the urban poor hardest hit by rising food prices – in 2008 and today still – are also members of the fashion tribe.  Consider the (approximately) 20, 000 Bangladeshi garment workers and the textile workers of Egypt’s so-called Mahala Intifada who striked and demanded higher wages to pay for higher food costs.

 

But in the end, Michael Kors succeeds by bringing fashionistas to rally around a cause that touches so many of us worldwide.

 

And so the fight against hunger continues.

 

Follow the Watch Hunger Stop campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at #WatchHungerStop.  Donate at www.watchhungerstop.com

 

Photography courtesy of Michael Kors

 

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé is a writer, budding world traveler, and explorer of the ateliers of fashion artisans around the world. She tweets @Isabelle_BT and blogs at isabellebourgeault-tasse.tumblr.com.

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