Real Leaders

How First Ladies are Becoming Model Citizens

She enlisted style to fight for social causes and invited First Ladies from around to network with top luxury brands. Evie Evangelou has combined runway glamor with sustainable fashion and celebrity names.

What do 55 impeccably dressed First Ladies from around the world have in common? Fashion, of course. When did you last see a shabbily-dressed First Lady? Each year, the wives of global leaders, top luxury brands and celebrities do lunch in New York. Madam Ban Soon-Taek, First Lady of the United Nations, welcomes DKNY founder Donna Karan. Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia, gets to share a joke with The Daily Beast founder, Tina Brown, and the Crown Princess of Norway, Mette Marit, may well get to exchange pleasantries with America’s own royalty – Hollywood’s Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron.

At the gatherings, First Ladies from around the world have an opportunity to network with top luxury brand executives and celebrities, cleverly taking advantage of the General Assembly of the United Nations, to which they have traveled with their spouse. The annual gathering is the brainchild of entrepreneur and former model Evie Evangelou, who realized the influence of such highly regarded people and formulated a plan on how they can inspire change.

Evangelou created Fashion 4 Development (F4D), inspired by what she saw by an exuberant career in the international arena of cultural diplomacy and international relations. F4D is a global platform that supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by harnessing the power of the fashion and beauty industries.

“Through your daily choices of what you eat and what you wear, you not only impact your life but the planet.”

After years of fashion and entertainment projects, which included UN programs, as well as gazing into a photographer’s lens as a model, Evangelou decided she could use the power of fashion to rather swing the spotlight onto social causes. She crafted a catchy tag line “Giving Back is the New Luxury” and set about showing how the fashion and beauty industries can develop creative strategies for sustainable economic growth.


“We want to promote Innovations that are designed to do more with less and influence the way fashion is produced and sold,” says Evangelou. In an unprecedented cooperation between diplomacy and fashion, leading women from politics, business, culture, fashion and the arts have come together to serve for the greater good of women worldwide. The focus is on the female side of HIV/AIDS and on highlighting the United Nation’s initiative “Every Woman Every Child.”

F4D’s global initiatives have been felt in 24 countries and have contributed to fashion production, trade, health, skills training and education. As in any business transaction, both parties want to see a return on investment. Evangelou has structured deals that create a win-win situation for brands and communities in need. A collaboration between Vogue Italia and saw 60,000 designer bags get produced in Africa, generating USD500,000 in wages for workers and delivering USD10 million worth of global media value to the fashion partners.

Givenchy provided costumes to Chinese singer Li Yuchun, allowing the funds that would have been spent on a performance wardrobe to be donated to Chinese healthcare for women and children. The approach raised USD200,000 for this cause, with Givenchy receiving USD500,000 worth of press coverage. With returns like these, outperforming the stock market doesn’t always need to involve aggressive business techniques – just a clever trade-off.

“Through your daily choices of what you eat and what you wear, you not only impact your life but the planet and the others you share it with.”

“We offer the conscious-minded woman access to the newest, most talented, green and compassionate designers,” says Evangelou. Not one to rest on her achievements, she has already created a new venture, Sustainia Living, a platform created in collaboration with Sustainia, an offshoot of leading Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning, with followers in more than 100 countries. “It’s the new fashion,” says Evangelou. “We’ve developed this project as a fashionable lifestyle choice to excite people about the benefits and possibilities of sustainability.” Moving beyond fashion, Evangelou has now added food to the mix, and thinks this is the way forward for a healthier you and a healthier world.

“Through your daily choices of what you eat and what you wear, you not only impact your life but the planet and the others you share it with,” she explains. Inspiring and motivating individuals to be conscious consumers, to develop conscious brands and to adopt conscious business practices is the goal of Sustainia Living.” At a recent U.N. function, Evangelou started proceedings by reading a message from her friend, Suzy Amis Cameron, environmental activist, founder, former actress and wife of Hollywood director James Cameron. “Every single bite you take tonight deliciously addresses climate change,” she read. An entire plant-based menu had been specially prepared for the event and  used as a striking example to guests that they had cut their total carbon “foodprint” in half that night.

As business leaders around the world wake up to the new opportunities around them, in an economy that values values, Evangelou’s job can only get easier. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a good start. Perhaps her success is best summed up by F4D’s Global Goodwill Ambassador Franca Sozzani: “Sometimes we get the feeling we don’t know where to start, but then we happen to meet people so capable and valued that all problems seem to slowly unravel.”

For men, meanwhile, Evangelou has launched the League of Gentlemen, with top fashion model Chris Collins. They came up with the idea of leveraging the voices and influence of distinguished gentlemen around the globe to harness the power of fashion, sports, entertainment and business to promote the work of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. There’s no need to perfect your “blue steel’ look from the movie Zoolander either – you’ll just need a serious attitude of wanting to change the world for the better.

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