By Angela Wallace
On June 1, at Twickenham stadium in London, thousands of fans joined Beyonce and an all-star line up of performers including Jlo, Florence + the Machine, John Legend and Rita Ora, and speakers including Madonna, Prince Harry (via video) and Salma Hayek, for the Sound of Change LIVE concert. As fans lined up for preshow drinks, excitement spread through the stadium as a ticker displayed #chimeforchange tweets on the stage. Men and women wrote messages of love and hope, chiming for their wives, friends, mothers and sisters as the crowd counted down to show time.
Chime for Change is Gucci’s new foundation launched to promote health, education, and justice. For every girl. Every woman. Everywhere. The stadium was completely transformed with branded advertising, but instead of the designer handbags, dresses and loafers Gucci is famous for, these adverts promoted the rights of girls and women around the world, stating sobering statistics. Facts such as 60% of the children not in school are girls, 800 women die every day during pregnancy and childbirth, and 80% of the 800,000 people trafficked annually are girls and women. Gucci hit the right balance, making it accessible and balanced by inviting celebrities, activists and advocates to share the stage.
“None of us can move forward, if half of us are held back.” – Chime for Change
The crowd sometimes grew restless, especially between famous spokespersons like Jada Pinkett Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, James Franco and Jessica Chastain, while videos like The Girl Effect were playing. As with any initiative that merges celebrity, fashion and charity, I couldn’t help but overhear and roll my eyes at a few of the comments bantered about during the show. One disgruntled fan complained loudly, “What? This is all for charity? I thought I’d get a discount for Gucci.”
While the audience may have decided to take breaks during the public service announcements, there was no lack of enthusiasm for the musical acts and celebrity hosts. Beyonce took the stage as the headline act and started singing to the frenzied crowd. Her husband Jay Z joined her. He spent less than a minute rapping with her, looking immensely proud, and he hugged her and kissed her cheek in a very rare moment of public affection. She grinned. The stadium erupted into cheers for them. Beyonce continued to keep the crowd on their feet for the rest of the night, singing new singles like, “Grown Woman”, along with old, crowd favourites like, “Irreplaceable”. When she finished her encore and all the celebrities were swept backstage, the real stage was set: for the audience to donate.
Founded and underwritten by Gucci, Chime for Change works in collaboration with Catapult, the first crowd-funding platform focused exclusively on the rights of girls and women. Concert attendees received the full amount of their ticket price to donate to projects of their choice, in health, education and justice, courtesy of Gucci. Donating was simple and fun, and projects were listed by issue area and geography. For example, Madonna arrested the attention of the audience at the concert with her inspiring speech about schoolgirls in Pakistan, who run the risk of brutal acid attacks because they have the courage to attend classes.
She implored the audience, “…please listen to me. Women of all ages are risking their lives to make sure that other girls are given a chance to learn to read and write… They are assassinated for being schoolteachers. I do not accept this, and neither should you.” She asked us to help her build a dream school in Pakistan. She promised to match every dollar donated. I pledged half our proceeds to her project. We donated the other half to a solar power project that trains Native American women with new skills in renewable energy to earn income and support their communities.
Gucci has proven itself to be an industry leader, getting out front as global issues are championed in public-private partnerships, using innovations like crowd funding to reach diverse audiences. Gucci opened up a conversation. They bore the full costs of the concert, raised $4 million for charity and broadcasted the show around the world with some of the most recognizable faces in entertainment and social justice, including Bishop Desmund Tutu and the famous feminist Gloria Steinem. Instead of ignoring complex global issues, like many other brands, Gucci capitalized on its significant influence to make a contribution to women’s rights, redistributing money and power into the hands of thousands of women around the world at the grassroots level, and orchestrating a spectacular show.
© Angela Wallace Sasstainable 2013
Editor’s note: The parent company of Gucci, formerly known as PPR or ‘the Gucci Group, is taking its Sustainable Corporate Responsibilities to new heights. On June 18th, it officially changed its name to Kering, to reflect its dedication to strong ecological and social policies. We’ve long believed that Kering is one of the best eco/ethical fashion models around. You can hear the CEO of Kering speaking about that here, (but it’s in French).