As a “My Hero” Award recipient – can you explain the importance of what this means to you and discuss your involvement with AID FOR AIDS International?
It means a great deal to me. I thought it was very nice of them to acknowledge me for helping out with not just AID FOR AIDS International, but with different charities that I’ve been involved with that help children, fight AIDS, and breast cancer. I always think of the “My Hero” award as a statue of Jesús Aguais. He is a hero — what [Jesús] has done with that organization is so inspiring on so many levels. He is saving lives. What he has done, single-handedly starting this organization in his apartment, recycling and collecting medicine and distributing it to people who really need it and don’t have access to it. The fact that he’s taking something that is so useful and needed — that people here can’t use and it can’t be recycled here, but it can be recycled and useful to other people in other countries. I’ve always been so in awe of what he’s done and what he’s created. The award, and that recognition from him, means so much to me. I’m very passionate about what he’s achieved. There aren’t many people around that have done what he’s done.
What do you think is the most fulfilling experience that you’ve had as a result of your efforts to help the cause?
It’s all fulfilling in different ways. Any help, whether it’s a donation or an appearance is satisfying when you see how it really helps. For me, being on the board of AID FOR AIDS International and seeing them grow, seeing them through the tough times, through the good times — I enjoy helping out with their benefits, getting people like Mario Testino and Mark Consuelos to acknowledge the work that Aid for AIDS has done. It’s a great feeling to be involved, more than just donating.
You’ve had an extremely successful career. What is it that inspires you to keep doing such great work? How do you keep and maintain your drive?
I am very passionate about my work. My creative work has always been there, it is a release. I’ve given so much to my creating and working and being in the studio and developing new ideas. It’s given back so much to me and it has been so fulfilling. Being involved in New York and the city and everything that the city is — I worked many years in Europe, but I had to come back to NY, the city was like my lifeline. It inspired my works so much and it keeps me energized. I am very dedicated to the work. I never consider stopping. I never think about retirement. I really love the craft.
Do you find it difficult to balance your creativity with the business?
Sure. I am a creative person first. The business takes a great deal of time away from the creative aspects that I would like to focus on more. You evolve and you change and you grow and you start to find that the challenge isn’t just the creative, but how to balance both of those. That becomes more of the challenge than the creative part. They are both equally as important. You can’t have one without the other.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to start their own fashion line or fashion business?
You need a good partner — whether it’s a good creative partner, good business partner, good financial partner. I think it’s really important that you have a sounding board and you have a great support system. That’s what really helps. So many of the people that I see succeed have had great partners and I think it’s important to have that in some way. The people you surround yourself with is very important.
What is your take on how the general public responds when it comes to supporting AIDS charities?
In the beginning [of the AIDS crisis]there was a real call to arms, but I think with time and all of the advances that have been made — I think there is a little bit of ‘oh, it’s ok.’ But I think attention needs to be made, because it’s not over and its still a very real thing, consuming lives. We have to be as aware as ever as to what’s going on. I think an organization like AID FOR AIDS International, which is younger and newer, it hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been easy for any organization over the past couple of years, with the way the economy has taken a down turn. We need to support them more than ever. Now they need more support than ever.
As a board member of Aid for AIDS, is there a way you would recommend for people to get involved?
There is so much that can be done. You can volunteer, help out. There is always need for a volunteer and advice. I’ve connected to various people that may not have contributed money, but have contributed in other ways, like legal advice and ideas. We always need volunteers.
Is there a personal story that brings this cause near and dear to your heart?
Sure. I’m certainly of an age where I lived through the worst of the crisis. I lost a great deal of friends and almost lost people very close to me. It’s something like cancer and it has touched everyone’s lives. Unfortunately, there have been too many people that I have known who’s lives have been touched by Aids. I do it for them and I do it in hopes that other people don’t have to endure that someday.
To learn more about AID FOR AIDS International click here.