Malaria Nets, the Latest Fashion Accessory?

Winter Miller | 05 Sep 2007
New York Times

It was like any other Fashion Week party. Models. Designer T-shirts. SoHo loft with white walls. A room called The Champagne Room. The couple who went into the bathroom together. Check, check, check and check. But we digress. This may have been the only party during fashion week to showcase mosquito nets.

No, not to wear, to send to Africa.

"I flew in for 24 hours to get the word out," said Ginnifer Goodwin, the actress best known to fans of HBO's drama about polygamy, "Big Love."

Surrounded by hanging bed nets and photos of Ugandan women and children, Ms. Goodwin explained that she wasn't here just for the goody bag.

"I knew nothing about malaria, but in a couple of sentences one can be educated," she said, and rattled off some statistics: "Malaria kills 3,000 children in Africa a day and for ten bucks we can do something about it."

The event was sponsored by Glamour magazine to showcase the work of Malaria No More, an organization that provides bed nets to African families. For Fashion Week last February, Glamour donated profits of designer T-shirts to a series of charities selected by the designers, but this time, the magazine selected one charity.

"We've been aware of malaria and this issue's effect on women," said Cindy Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour.

"I heard Jeff Sachs talking so evangelically about the number of diseases that kill women in Africa," she said, referring to Jeffrey D. Sachs, the global poverty expert who directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

So why mosquito nets? Is it because they're sheer, and fashionistas love sheer? "A $10 dollar bed net will make a difference; you don't have to overthrow a regime," Ms. Leive said.

There's even a chance the event saved on catering. A half-dozen boyishly handsome male model hopefuls dressed in all white carried barely nibbled appetizer trays prompting one partygoer to remark, "It must be cheap to cater a fashion party."