To some degree, there is, and always has been, an intersection between fashion and philanthropy. Then, there is Helena Gatsby. The nineteen-year-old model is heavily involved in charity work and entrepreneurial projects and is dedicated to making the world a better place.
Words by Sandy Aziz.
Helena Gatsby appears courtesy of Elite London.
Within the first ten minutes of our Friday Zoom call, Helena Gatsby’s glow becomes apparent and her cheerful and authentic energy are contagious. She is currently based in London – courtesy of COVID-19 – but before this, the French model was living in New York, which is also where she started her modelling career at seventeen. Gatsby always knew that she wanted to model and her passion for fashion started at the ripe old age of three. Her first fashion adventures included rummaging through her mum’s wardrobe for handbags, a story that is all too relatable. “I love to dress up and perform – so the fashion industry was kind of perfect for me because I got to wear amazing clothes, and I got to play different characters,” explains Gatsby.
During lockdown the world undeniably slowed down. But Gatsby’s endless hunger to keep learning meant that she signed up for online programs at both Oxford and Cornell to study entrepreneur venture creation and business management respectively. She explained that she used these courses to further her understanding of the fashion industry’s multifaceted layers as she is working on a few fashion-meets-philanthropy projects. Gatsby’s other lockdown activities included painting and a pledge to read 40 pages a day (as, she points out, does Warren Buffett), which, she proudly tells us, she is still doing today. But what does Gatsby really love? Puzzles. “I started doing a lot of puzzles, and they help me reflect a lot – they’re like meditating,” Gatsby lightheartedly continues, “add it to your list that we have to meet up and do a puzzle!”
Puzzles aside, and now that Gatsby has been in London for over a year, she laughingly rationalizes, “I really like London, so I kind of don’t miss New York that much – the city is so beautiful here... there are just so many parks.” Despite a fondness for London, she is ready for the world to reopen so that she can start working on amfAR’s iconic events, which have all been virtual lately. AmfAR is just one of the many charitable organizations that the Gatsbys are involved with, and through events and fundraising, the foundation “perpetuates humanitarian efforts in advancing AIDS research”.
“My father dedicates his life to some of the most important causes, and I personally want to be like him one day... seeing him work so hard to make this world a better place and is really inspiring.”
Gatsby’s latest involvement with amfAR is to promote the release of a new perfume, Gala. “The mission is to provide the world with the opportunity to share in the Gala by amfAR experience – and create a divine philanthropist community,” explains Gatsby. Without attempting to sound like a perfume advertisement, Gatsby exclaims with conviction, “honestly, I think they’re amazing, everyone loves them – they’re shockingly good!” As well as the beautiful bottle design, Gatsby reveals that the women’s fragrance is a “fruity, citrus mix with notes of Jasmine Bulgarian rose, white musk and sandalwood”, while the men’s is “very manly – smells a bit like aftershave.”
Raised within a philanthropic environment, it makes sense that Gatsby is intrinsically motivated to follow in the footsteps of her father who has been the Global Fundraising Chairman of amfAR for almost 30 years. “My father dedicates his life to some of the most important causes, and I personally want to be like him one day... seeing him work so hard to make this world a better place and is really inspiring.” And Gatsby has already begun following suit by launching her own charitable project with her best friend. “I can give you a little sneak peek,” she giggles. “We are starting our own sportswear brand and the whole concept is female empowerment. You’ll be able to purchase sportswear online with part of proceeds going directly to a charity of your choice relating to a women’s organization”.
This is a piece's extract. Find out the full version in the Spring Summer 2021 Issue 6.