Style » Fashion

The Stars Align for Fashion for Action: Housing Works’ Annual Benefit Gala

by Robert Doyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Nov 19, 2010

In years past, every weekend, gay boys from all over town flocked to 17th and Seventh Avenue.

No, not for brunch at Cafeteria: they were heading to the original Barney's - where, upstairs at the Atrium, the ensuing scene was a delicious mash-up of fashion show, cocktail party, and disco.

How fitting then that this year's Fashion for Action, the annual Housing Works benefit gala, was held at the Rubin Museum, on the site of the former Barney's flagship - and that the capacity crowd was as gorgeously resplendent and fashion-forward as the Chelsea boys of yesteryear.

AIDS = Leading Cause of Death

Here’s a fact: HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15-44.

Stop. Think about it. And then do something about it. Something like Housing Works.

It was in 1990 that Housing Works emerged from the activist moment ACT UP to provide lifesaving services for homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.

Now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Housing Works is the largest community-based nonprofit HIV/AIDS organization in New York City.

Relentless Advocacy

As the progeny of ACT UP, Housing Works understands the need for relentless advocacy in order to provide housing, job training, and medical care: services that require a great deal of money.

That’s why every year Housing Works celebrates its philanthropic mission with Fashion for Action, a benefit gala and sample sale.

Last year’s benefit raised $350,000 for medical care and support services for women affected by HIV/AIDS - while this year’s 600-person crowd worked together to raise nearly $450,000. That’s called fashion commitment!

A Million Dollars of Merch

If you’re a New Yorker, it’s likely that you’ve been bringing your clothes to one of the Housing Works thrift shops around town (while also stocking your closet with a few Housing Works’ purchases).

Now it’s time to head back to the Chelsea Housing Works Thrift Shop where more than a million dollars in merchandise is being sold at 50-70% off.

Given that 2006 CFDA Award winner, Thom Browne, is this year’s benefit chair, you can expect racks of Brooks Brothers Black Fleece label, alongside brand-new sample items from Theory, Billy Reid (this year’s CFDA Award winner), Banana, Seven, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, and more.

Boys Live to Shop

The crowd at the gala, plied with copious cocktails by Given (a tequila liqueur), hurried back and forth from the Rubin to the Chelsea Thrift Shop, where the scene evoked the glory days of Barneys when the boys lived to shop and shopped to live.

Shoppers need sustenance, of course - and the catering for the evening was done by Housing Works’ own Works Catering, which was founded in 1997 - and which plows every bit of profit back into social services for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Utilizing a seasonal farm-to-table approach to American cuisine, the Works Catering’s nibbles for the night included smoked potato soup, nori parmesan kale, "Givenchy" cheese puffs - all lip-smacking delicious and all served by a staff as chic as the setting.

People Having Fun With Fashion - And Doing Good

Fashion guru David McKnight was seen dispensing fashion tips, while Thom Browne offered sartorial wisdom. The stunning Patricia Clarkson found a cloche and Anika Noni Rose had her arms full of awards-telecast clothing.

Meanwhile, back at the Rubin, erstwhile Heatherette designer Richie Rich and designer Loris Diran were holding court with a bevy of fashion fanatics while John Bartlett’s very presence epitomized good taste with a NO FUR pin - and everywhere people were having fun with fashion.

Having fun and doing good - that’s one very good reason why you live in the center of the style universe.

Go. Shop now for the benefit of your closet - and those living with HIV/AIDS.


LOCATION: Housing Works’ Chelsea Thrift Shop, 143 West 17th Street, New York City

DATE: Friday, November 19th at noon through Sunday, November 21st at 9 pm

Fashion for Action

Long-term New Yorkers, Mark and Robert have also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center, Mark is a PhD in American history and literature, as well as the author of the novels Wolfchild and My Hawaiian Penthouse. Robert is the producer of the documentary We Are All Children of God. Their work has appeared in numerous publications, as well as at :


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