Words: Tony Triumph       Photos: Lauren Taubenfeld

On Wednesday October 9th:

New York city’s Lexington Avenue Armory lit with a vibrant blitz of lights and living legends. United Colors of Fashion, a New York City based non-profit organization, stood host to its yearly fashion show entitled “Faith. Fashion. Hope”. The 3rd annual gala, which allows leading fashion designers from around the globe to showcase their work on the runway, also honored some of the worlds most recognizable names in fashion.

Pat Cleveland Bethann Hardison United Colors of Fashion Gala-001

[Above: Top models of the past share Pat Cleveland’s special moment.]

Clutching the rooms attention stood MC to the event Audrey Smaltz, Founder & President of The Ground Crew, New York Fashion Week’s premiere provider of backstage dressers and production assistance for runway shows. As a UCOF partner, Audrey lead each segment of the show by a thrilling introduction, turning the spotlight and tuning the crowd into the majority of the evenings special moments.

Pat cleveland vogue ucof gala

Among the honorees, stood the tall and graceful fashion legend Pat Cleveland, who was presented with an esteemed “Life Time Achievement Award” by the charity. More then a formidable accomplishment, as Pat Cleveland’s career as a model and fashion muse has stretched to well over 40 years. Crowned the “original Naomi Campbell of the runway”, Cleveland is easily remembered as muse to legendary fashion designer Halston, as well as regularly gracing the covers of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and L’Officiel throughout the 70’s and 80’s- amidst sashaying and twirling her ways all throughout the iconic studio 54 era. In 2013, Cleveland is still walking in runway shows across the globe, and is the current face of Zac Posen’s Resort 2014 lookbook as well as MAC cosmetics Antonio Lopez capsule collection.

Presenting UCOF’s honor to Cleveland was a fellow living legend herself, Bethann Hardison. Easily considered the “Harriet Tubman of Fashion”, Hardison is the former model turned agent, turned outspoken fashion activist and model scout. Often glorified as the key negotiator of Tyson Beckford’s famous Ralph Lauren deal, Hardison is also a career mentor and dear friend to Naomi Campbell, playing a large role in the success that rides many house hold names today.

I’ve known Pat Cleveland for a very long time now. I was a model, and she had already been working for a while and was this extraordinary being. Then when I started working I thought, ‘Pat Cleveland isn’t gonna’ want to talk to me’, but I was wrong. We’ve been friends ever since. ” -Bethann Hardison

As Pat Cleveland took the runway stage, she exhumed the most coy level grace and fierceness, strutting, dancing and “voguing” her way to the acceptance of UCOF’s Life Time Achievement Award. She was also joined in accepting her award by fellow top model friends of her reigning era including Sandi Bass, Maria Mcdonald, Coco Mitchell, and Alva Chinn.

Ciano Clerjuste Sade Soloman

[Above: Ciano Clerjuste(UCOF Founder/President) presents Sade Soloman with UCOF’s Achiever of the Year Award.]

1069338_396732173770827_1181934753_nFern Mallis, perhaps holding dear to the most little be known, yet impactful contribution to the fashion world, also received UCOF’s “Honorary Chair Award”. An industry titan, Fern is internationally respected as the Former SVP of IMG Fashion and former Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America(CFDA).

While the accomplishments of Fern Malis and Pat Cleveland stood quite a site to see, another honor to be recognized was Sade Solomon, who received UCOF’s Achiever of the Year Award. Solomon, who is a graduate of NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology, has been apart of UCOF’s Fashion Education Program for the past 3 years.

Sade Soloman United colors of fashion

[Above: Sade Soloman’s first collection is showcased at UCOF’s 3rd annual fashion gala.]

It was such a blessing to be able to show my first collection in the presence of Fern Mallis; creator of fashion week and previous Executive Director of the CFDA; Bethann Hardison, model and fashion activist; Pat Cleveland, fashion legend and former Halston muse, and a host of others.” -Sade Soloman

As UCOF’s passion is to locally mentor under-resourced youth in New York City about the fashion industry through hands-on training in fashion education, Solomons segment was perhaps the most dear to the charity’s heart.  It was an essentially proud moment for UCOF President Ciano Clerjuste as he has personally mentored Sade over the last three years, even guiding her to South Africa where she participated in South African Fashion Week.

Words are not enough to express my gratitude to everyone who made our 3rd Annual Gala possible. Normally, under-resourced youth do not have access to the opportunities to dress supermodels, learn about trends firsthand and attend shows like Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. We are indebted to each individual who worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the annual event. May God richly bless you beyond measure and may your heart be ever joyful.” -Ciano Clerjuste, UCOF Founder & PresidentDevyn Abdullah the face

The 3rd Annual United Colors of Fashion Gala also included a runway fashion show featuring designers Marc Bouwer, David Tlale, Kosibah, Ron & Ron, Sukeina, Naked Ape by Shaldon Kopman and Carmen Marc Valvo. Special guest models included two recent reality TV firsts, Devyn Abdullah, the first winner of Naomi Campbell’s The Face, and Treveen Stewart, the first winner of Carribean’s Next Top Model.

 About United Colors of Fashion(UCOF): 

United Colors of Fashion (UCOF) is a New York City-based non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization with a passion to locally mentor under-resourced youth in New York City about the fashion industry through hands-on training in fashion education; and offer provisions of financial assistance, food, and clothing to youth in South Africa who are living with HIV/AIDS, sickle cell anemia and paralysis. The core mission of UCOF is to Empower Youth Through Fashion, provide education and mentorship to under-resourced youth in New York City about the fashion industry through hands-on training, and provide financial assistance, food, and clothing to youth in South Africa who are living with HIV/AIDS, sickle cell anemia and paralysis.

For more information on UCOF, or to get involved please visit: www.unitedcolorsoffashion.org