Geneva is where it’s at when it comes to The Womanity Foundation‘s seriously loyal supporters, friends and partners. For about an hour, a continuous influx of guests and sponsors heads to the Espace Hippomène, a cool, contemporary, industrial-style edifice built for cutting-edge exhibitions, congresses, and in this case, The Womanity Foundation’s bi-annual gala evening.
The front of house PR team, all multi-lingual, multi-tasking girls, seen earlier in the day running and planning the set up of this seamlessly Swiss mega-operation, whisper in my ear that they are expecting just over 1000 guests for this gala evening. Yann Borgstedt, the founder, is working his heavy-duty VIP guest list!
Louboutin, Gucci, Jimmy Choo….brands are de rigeur, and accessorise (very) short or (too) long dresses and skirts. The guys, every one of them handsome and of distinguished allure, file by, some in tuxedos, and others in sharp business suits. Two even cut a reckless dash in their tartan kilts. The dress-code is an elegant chic mix, classics of the international jet-set, who are down from their ski-piste chalets, to join Colin and Livia Firth for the vernissage of “Taste Contemporary Craft” at the gallery Blondeau & Cie, and get to this highly anticipated evening.
It’s the fifth gala for Yann, and his team once again has superseded itself. They have created a “fire and ice” themed décor; the all-white, igloo-style lobby is the Moët & Chandon reception space, with champagne flowing from white “ice” goblets, and fire and passion reigns in the dining room, where the highly anticipated auction and a healthy three-course dinner rolls out.
Founded in 2005, The Womanity Foundation runs a passionate mission in our world today, to school and educate young girls and women in their less privileged countries, namely India, Morocco, Afghanistan and Brazil. Providing and giving them access to better education also helps their professional formation. They help provide work, structure and opportunities for a career, a place and a voice in society, whilst also protecting their physical and psychological integrity. Yann’s interest in technology has taken his mission beyond the usual perimeters, to devise an important way of interacting within these communities by using live broadcast media. Mona Zaki, one of the major Arabic movie actresses, plays the character of Noha in “Worth 100 Men,” a radio fiction series broadcast throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including on radio NISAA, Womanity’s home-grown women’s radio. It is the very first of its kind and will be broadcasting 30 episodes telling stories about women on live radio, reaching into households and schools, via mobile devices.
Another Womanity project is “WomenChangeMakers,” which supports social entrepreneurs who work for women’s empowerment in India and Brazil. “Preventing violence towards women, developing their skills and encouraging them to participate actively in their society creates a fast-track to long-lasting improvement within their communities,” says Yann. “We will invest all our know-how, experiences and resources in the pursuit of these objectives, and we can prove that these types of benefits are investments that can be quantified thanks to the many studies we have carried out in this area.”
At the last gala in 2012, Womanity raised 1.35 million Swiss francs, and this year’s all-time record of over two million Swiss francs makes the many dreams Yann has in mind tangible. The auction lots on the fire-red, orchid-clad tables have been extraordinary: a couture hat by royal milliner Philip Treacy, a week’s holiday at the Zhiwa Ling in Bhutan, a tailoring experience with Marinella on the Amalfi coast, and many more.
As if these were not enough, Jean-Claude Jitrois is standing by a 1958 Silver Cloud Rolls Royce, which he has customised in white leather. There is a brand new FIAT 500 designed by Francesca Versace, who has naturally also joined the party. MV Augusta have donated a collector’s Rivale motorbike, there is a part to be bid for to be in Marc Forster’s next movie, a Smart car by Philippe Pasqua (who is at the gala), and lot no. 31 is Hublot’s. They unveil, alongside Mr. Jean-Claude Biver himself, a limited edition of men’s and women’s watches created especially for Womanity.
You just have to name the price, and Simon de Pury does a grand job of keeping over 1000 bidders wired while he works the important lots with the gorgeous Mareva Galanter, the former, delectable Miss France, who glitters in Chopard, while Caroline Scheufele looks on. Yann is already briefing plans for the next Gala in 2016; let’s see where he will stage such a success next time!