Last year marked a significant milestone for Imran Amed’s Business of Fashion (BoF). The pioneering platform launched VOICES, its first industry gathering, building on the success of its online fashion community forum and local VOICES program, which hosts intimate gatherings across the globe. It also saw the creation of the Global VOICES award, to recognize outstanding achievement in fashion and exemplary impact on the wider world, and at a gala dinner at this year’s industry event, held last week at Oxfordshire’s Soho Farmhouse, it was model and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova who received the accolade.
“I’m surprised by how much this evening means to me,” said Natalia when accepting the award. “I’m one of those people who questions every day: Am I who I think I am? Am I fit for what I think I can do? And it’s a lot and most of the time, I doubt myself. But then I push those doubts away and I do what I can, I do the best I can do - today and every day. And I’m so grateful to this industry. I’m so grateful to every single person who helped me on this journey.”
Previously known by many for her impressive modelling career, Natalia is perhaps now equally renowned for her many charitable endeavours. She is the founder of the Naked Heart Foundation, which works with disadvantaged and disabled children in her native Russia, and Elbi, a global philanthropy app. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Special Olympics, and an advocate for full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
At last year’s inaugural event, guests enjoyed a Peruvian-themed dinner in honor of the 2016 Global VOICES Award winner Mario Testino. This year, the same space was transformed into a Russian wonderland to celebrate the achievements of its latest recipient, with hand-painted matryoshka, Byzantine-style screens and paintings, Victorian upholstered chairs and colorful floral throws and silks evoking Natalia’s home country. And the entertainment was also suitably themed, with performances by a traditional Russian folk troupe and world-renowned Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin.
This year’s gala dinner and award ceremony marked the end of the three-day VOICES event, where the overarching theme was a spirit of sharing, collaboration rather than competition. “VOICES is definitely the most important and special thing that BoF does,” said founder Imran Amed. “It's the closest we get to achieving the mission that we set out for this company, which is to open, inform and connect the global fashion community, and to connect that community with the wider world.”