“Exploitation, greed, harm to people and the environment are things I am working to eradicate together with Livia [Firth], Donna Karan, WWF, Glasswing, Pacunam, and someone I brought especially for this celebration,” said Carmen. Speaking at this year’s Fashion 4 Development First Ladies Luncheon, where she was honored as an “Agent of Change” for her humanitarian work, Carmen continued, “This prize is dedicated to Isabella and our planet, and belongs to everyone here." At just 21 years old, Isabella Springmuhl Tejada is now the most recognized fashion designer in Guatemala, but she has had to overcome all the odds to succeed in the industry, supporting local communities and promoting her message of inclusivity along the way.
Carmen’s guest for the luncheon, held yesterday at New York’s Pierre Hotel, Isabella's hopes of following in her grandmother’s creative footsteps were initially dashed by the local university, who declined to accept her due to her condition – Isabella has Down's Syndrome. But undeterred, and with the support of her family, she began educating herself and today, Isabella’s Down to Xjabelle collections, which feature richly colorful textiles woven by indigenous Mayan women, have not only received acclaim in her native Guatemala, but on the international fashion stage too. In 2016, she was the first fashion designer with Down's Syndrome to take part in London Fashion Week, participating in the International Fashion Showcase, and was also among the list of inspirational and influential figures named among the BBC’s 100 Women. Later that same year, Isabella was also invited to showcase her collections in Rome. “She is a warrior who hasn’t taken no for an answer,” said Carmen.
Organized by Evie Evangelou, the annual Fashion 4 Development gathering, which hosts First Ladies, UN Ambassadors and VIPs from around the world, underscores messages of women’s empowerment, sustainability and environmentalism. Alongside Carmen, this year’s honorees included data pioneer and entrepreneur Edwina Dunn, Grammy nominee Ellie Goulding and actress Amber Heard. Melanie Steiner, Chief Risk Officer of PVH Corp, owner of brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, accepted the Leading Lady Award for her commitment to corporate responsibility.
F4D is a private sector global platform founded by Evangelou in January 2011 in support of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and “Every Woman, Every Child”, the UN initiative spearheaded by former Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. F4D promotes positive social change with initiatives in over 20 countries and builds upon the core leadership principles of the 4Es: Educate, Empower, Enhance and Enrich. F4D’s mission is to activate creative partnerships and harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries for sustainable economic growth and independence of communities worldwide, through the expression of fashion. In 2015, F4D committed to support the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals with a significant focus on sustainable lifestyle practices for a healthier world, preservation of culture and women’s and children’s empowerment.