Evie Evangelou is not only the founder of “fashion for good” platform Fashion 4 Development, she has also made history as the woman who first brought fashion into the United Nations as a tool for diplomacy.
“It’s not just about having a Louis Vuitton bag, it’s about what we are saying to people,” said Evangelou. “I’ve been using fashion as a force for good all these years.”
In the 1990s, she hosted celebrity and culture-focused events at Christie’s and the Lincoln Center, when she wasn’t a celebrity fashion designer for Celine Dion, Aerosmith, and Shakira. In 1997, she became an advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for projects like “Dialogues of Diversities,” and “Diversity is Beautiful,” and was asked produce the UN Day Concert in 2001, which was cancelled after 9/11.
It led her to founding Fashion 4 Development, an organization she founded in New York City in 2011, which holds annual fashion-led events for the greater good.
Most recently, Evangelou hosted two events during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly; the 11th First Ladies Luncheon and the 3rd Annual Sustainable Goals Banquet, which opened with New York mayor Eric Adams. The dinner also paid tribute to the late Franca Sozzani, Editor in Chief of Italian Vogue and founder of The Franca Fund, and there were speeches from model Bianca Balti, Sara Sozzani Maino and fashion designer Thebe Magugu, who took home the Franca Sozzani Award.
The event also included a fashion showcase with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust featuring a recorded speech from Anton Mosimann, OBE, the Queen’s chef, and a touching speech from gender equality activist, chef and entrepreneur Alina Karimamussama.
Alongside Magugu, the honorees included CEO of Hugo Boss, Daniel Grieder, philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, President of S&P Global Market Intelligence Martina Cheung and artist Vuslat Sabanchi, while Naila Chowdhury, the Director of Social Impact and Innovation at UC San Diego, was announced as F4D’s Goodwill Ambassador.
Fashion and music icons like Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham and Francine LeFrak have been among the previous honorees. Sozzani was previously Fashion 4 Development’s goodwill ambassador from 2011 to 2016. “Then, we created the award for her,” said Evangelou.
Evangelou’s 3rd Sustainable Goals Banquet featured the Rhythms of Brazil, a live dance performance celebrating Brazil’s dance heritage, alongside the announcement of the Earth Games by the governor of Mato Grosso, Brazil. There were speeches from the president of Malawi, H.E. Lazarus Chakwera, who received the 2023 Human Kind Institute Gender Champion Award and mayor Adams, who took home the 2023 Human Kind Institute Award for Impact through Food. The Agents of Change awards were given to individuals addressing food security, poverty, education, sustainability, and women’s and children’s rights. “I like to use fashion to attract people, because they love glamor,” said Evangelou.
“Then, I hit them with all the impact I need to hit them with,” she said. “People shy away from devastation. I use fashion and the arts to bring them in, make them happy, inspire them, and show them there is hope, and how they can join in. Fashion is one way to show there is hope for the future.”
Evangelou first founded Fashion 4 Development in 2011 to support the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The organization was founded with four pillars of principles; to educate, empower, enhance, and enrich the fashion industry, all the while advancing social and economic development goals. That also includes preserving cultural heritage. Their tagline is: “Giving back is the new luxury.”
Evangelou explains: “I want to use fashion for tolerance, reconciliation, and bringing people to understand we are all one, and that we must help each other.”
Her organization is squarely focused on creating social change, with projects in over 20 countries. Over the past decade, the events have bridged leaders in art, fashion, beauty, travel, and travel with cultural diplomacy.
It stemmed from a segment-based show she hosted on the UN TV channel in 2008 (which today, is called UN Web TV), after she was asked to help them cross-promote. “I said, let me host a show called Fashion 4 Development,” recalls Evangelou. “I thought, what is fashion doing to support the Millennium Goals, which was important at that time. I showed eye candy but I was talking about designers doing good.”
The TV show led her to founding her organization under the same name, Fashion 4 Development. “I felt fashion had a loud voice,” said Evangelou, who worked with the UN as an advisor under its past two secretaries, Ban Ki-moon, and Kofi Annan.
“I want to use fashion for tolerance, reconciliation, and bringing people to understand we are all one, and that we must help each other,” she said.
The events also marked the launch of “Global Runway, The Book,” which Evangelou co-authors with Stephanie Dillon. It showcases fashion from 193 countries who are part of the United Nations to tell stories about community and heritage. “This is a global thing, we have to get everyone involved, hand in hand,” said Evangelou.
She previously helped organize the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace in 2018, and showcased Chinese couture designer Guo Pei in 2013, whose career has taken off ever since.
“Global Runway is evolving, we want to showcase designers who are the future of not only fashion, but sustainably and responsibly,” said Evangelou. “We need a fresh breath of air in fashion. We also need to preserve culture, make smaller collections, and stay away from fast fashion.”
Alongside the book and runway show, a documentary focused around the making of Global Runway will be released in 2025. It already feels like the Olympics for the fashion industry. “There will be a runway in the General Assembly,” said Evangelou. “That’s where world leaders meet, it’s where we can have tolerance, understanding, and a better understanding of world cultures through fashion.”
One step is fashion, but Evangelou notes that there needs to be a shift in our mindsets to truly see global change.
“It’s my passion and journey and I was meant to do this work,” she said.