The New York–based nonprofit Gotham Cares threw its inaugural gala last night at Cipriani Ballroom, raising funds for Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Rescue Committee in an effort to combat the Syrian refugee crisis.
While a world apart from Syria, where civil war has displaced 6.3 million people inside the country and where foreign aid is all the more critical in the wake of the White House’s proposed travel ban, the party’s venue—once a steamship ticketing hall boasting ornate maritime-themed ceiling murals—is a grand symbol of open borders and transatlantic travel.
Top model Sean O’Pry, in Giorgio Armani, was moved to bid on the donation of six lifesaving defibrillators after hearing from the night’s speakers, who included model Ubah Hassan and poet Mona Haydar. “I knew of [the crisis], I just didn’t know the gravity, and tonight just brought it home to me,” said O’Pry. “There’s no difference between a Syrian and an American. All it is is a passport.”
That message of inclusivity was reflected in the evening’s fashions: R&B singer Maxwell wore Adrien Sauvage, a British designer of Ghanaian descent (“I’m wearing this in honor of Edward Enninful becoming editor in chief of British Vogue!” he said), and Indian-American designer Naeem Khan dressed several attendees, including TK Wonder and Cipriana Quann. “We’re usually out five nights a week, but this night is really important to us,” said Quann. “With 11 million Syrians forced from their homes, it’s kind of like, how could you not be here?” “It’s also great when you can support a cause and still have fun at the same time,” added TK.
There to get the fun going were up-and-coming electro act Sofi Tukker (Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern), followed by DJs Geordon Nicol and Leigh Lezark of the Misshapes, both of whom proved that dancing and doing good aren’t mutually exclusive.
“[Médecins Sans Frontières] is a cause that’s really important to us,” said Lezark, wearing an abstract sequined frock from Chanel. “My husband is a doctor, and a number of his colleagues have worked with the organization. We have the utmost respect for the help they’ve provided victims of tragic circumstance.”
Fresh off their Coachella debut, Sofi Tukker warmed up the crowd with a string of cowbell-heavy bangers. “Coming back to do this is pretty funny,” said Halpern. “I was going to try to get everyone to wave their napkins in the air, but decided not to.”
Continuing the theme of subtle political cues, Hawley-Weld wore all white, long a symbol of solidarity. “I always wear white and always wear the same thing,” said the frontwoman, who accessorized her ensemble how any modern-day suffragette should. “My necklace is from Tuza, which makes these vagina necklaces. I wear it as a symbol of pride.”