April 29, 2011
Narciso Rodriguez, the world-renowned fashion designer, has had a long involvement with AID FOR AIDS International (AFAI), culminating in his joining our Board of Directors in 2008. In a broader sense, his work with AFAI is part of a decades-long commitment to the battle against HIV/AIDS and to other charitable causes close to his heart. With AIDS WALK 2011 just around the corner, AID FOR AIDS spoke with Narciso about his role in the AFAI family and his thoughts about the long struggle to end the HIV epidemic.
Q: You've been involved for a long time with pediatric AIDS charities, breast cancer awareness and research, and a host of other causes. What specifically brought you to us?
A: I believe it was about five years ago when some friends first told me about AID FOR AIDS. The story was just amazing, and incredibly inspiring. Here's a man, Jesus Aguais, who on his own starts this organization out of his apartment to ship recycled HIV medicine to people around the world who need it to stay alive. And now, 15 years later, it's helping thousands of people. When you think of it, AID FOR AIDS was green before green became fashionable. But, to me, what the story most represents is what one person can do if he or she has the courage and cares enough. Anyway, I knew I wanted to be associated in some way with what Jesus and his people were doing. I'm honored to be a part of it.
Q: The fashion industry has been particularly out front in raising HIV awareness and funding. How big a factor is that in your own personal commitment to the cause?
A: Oh, for sure it is a huge factor. If you go back to the very beginning of the struggle, fashion, along with all the creative arts, were very deeply affected. For me and many of my colleagues in the industry, it has always been a deeply personal thing. We lost a tremendous number of talented people, a lot of good friends are gone. It was very painful ...
Q: Twenty-five years later, where would you like to see the struggle go?
A: Well, I think there is still a great need to increase HIV awareness in the U.S. and around the world. Yes, with appropriate, expensive treatment, AIDS can be a manageable disease, but there are still huge parts of the world, for example Latin America and the Caribbean where AID FOR AIDS works, where it's a matter of life-and-death. There's a lot more to do to get the word out in terms of prevention and treatment. And there needs to be greater involvement by communities (outside of fashion and the arts). This thing is just too big, and too important. More people in positions of influence need to be actively involved.
Q: What are your plans for AIDS Walk on May 15? You've had some major success in the past fundraising for this event.
A: I can't be in New York to walk this year, but, like in past years, my thoughts are with the AID FOR AIDS team and this year's walkers. I encourage people to support them by joining their team or donating a contribution to their page.
Narciso Rodriguez studied design at the Parsons division of the New School in New York, before joining Anne Klein as women's design director under Donna Karan. In 1997, he launched his own label and gained worldwide recognition for the wedding dress worn by Carolyn Bessette at her marriage to John F. Kennedy Jr. In 2005, he became the first American to win the Council of Fashion Designers of America Womenswear Designer of the Year Award two years in a row. His list of celebrity clients includes Anna Paquin, Rachel Weisz, Claire Danes, Sonia Braga and Sarah Jessica Parker, among others. More recently, a dress from his 2009 Spring Collection was worn by Michelle Obama when she joined her husband at his first public appearance as President-Elect at Grant Park in Chicago. Narciso was one of Mr. Obama's most prominent supporters within the fashion community.