Toni Garrn is hardly a typical 25-year-old model. Since she hit the runway for Calvin Klein at the age of 15, her career has skyrocketed. She has modelled for the hottest designers during fashion weeks and graced the covers of countless glossies. Working in an industry dominated by women, she came to realise, as she put it, that “given a chance, girls can change the world”. So the Toni Garrn Foundation was established to raise money for disadvantaged girls in Zimbabwe who would otherwise be deprived of sufficient education. Garrn got all her supermodel friends to rally round and donate their designer clothes for sale at her annual Supermodel Flea Market to raise money for the charity. This year, the sale will be global, the marketplace being provided by the Vestiare Collective online exchange, which has 6 million members in 47 countries. Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Joan Smalls are among the supermodels that have given clothes this year, and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Liv Tyler and Elie Saab will also make donations. The sale begins on November 2 on the Vestiaire Collective website, and is open to all. You can vie for a signed denim jacket given by Moss, Prada shoes made specially for Bündchen, a vintage dress of pink velvet donated by Poppy Delevingne and a bag that Patricia Field had the Carrie Bradshaw character tote in Sex and The City. All the proceeds will go to the Toni Garrn Foundation. Garrn took time off from modelling and charity work to speak to #legend.
I’d been working with Plan International, supporting girls in Africa, and wanted to raise money to help make school life safer and easier to access for young girls. The sale came about because my closet was just overflowing. I think every girl’s closet in New York is. Working in fashion, we’re lucky enough to be gifted lots of items. Meanwhile, so many people all over the world have one T-shirt they live in, so I thought it was the perfect way to share.
For me, it’s exciting to see people wanting to help raise money for my foundation, no matter who they are or what they end up purchasing. Last year one girl bought running shoes that Karlie Kloss had donated. Of all of the things she could have got excited about, it was Karlie’s running shoes. She just wanted to raise money.
I always wanted to take the sale global, and for it to have an online presence where anyone could participate and own a piece from their favourite model’s closet but do something good at the same time. Vestiaire Collective is an online site, selling vintage and pre-loved luxury clothes to people all over the world, so I knew right away they'd be a perfect partner to help me raise even more funds for my girls in Africa.
Yes. I love the Vestiaire Collective concept. I love that they are sustainable, encouraging shopaholics to recycle and resell the pieces they aren’t wearing, whilst showing them unique, rare and possibly sold-out pieces.
I contacted all of my friends and all of their friends for donations this time round. Gisele donated some amazing pieces: Isabel Marant trousers – which I love – and a brand-new Versace dress. Joan Smalls donated a really cool Prabal Gurung jumper. Karlie Kloss donated a Levi’s jacket, which I really want to buy. Naomi Campbell sent an amazing white lace Givenchy dress, which I also love. All these pieces might end up in my closet unless someone is quicker than me.
I fell in love with Africa a long time ago, and saw within a couple of days that the girls have huge potential, yet aren't being treated equally at all. It felt extremely unfair. It's a human right to be able to go to school and learn how to read and write. Without education, no girl can follow her dreams or even properly create them. Every year a girl continues to go to school increases her later-life income by 20 percent. It’s so, so important that they stay in school.
When I went back to Africa in May I visited one of the schools in Zimbabwe where the money I’ve raised has built a girls’ hostel in the school grounds. Twenty-eight girls at this specific school now live in this boarding house, which they love. They unveiled a plaque with my name, which made me super-emotional, but so happy. My plan is to build more of these homes, as it seems the most productive way to overcome the logistical difficulties and safety issues that these girls face. The girls I spent time with at this specific school are so pleased and at home, many of them stay in the boarding school over the weekends. Most memorable would definitely be when I saw all of these smiling faces looking at me when my plaque was revealed. It became real then.
I try to go out as often as I can. I was there in May and hope to go early next year as well. It’s great to see how the money that my foundation raises helps these girls. It really motivates me in the next project.
Fashion and charity go hand in hand. We have access to so much, working in fashion, whereas these girls in Africa have so little. It makes total sense to help in any way we can.
Online shopping, definitely. I have no time to go to 10 different shops looking for something, whereas I can look online on 10 different websites when I’m in the car or waiting at the airport.
I love vintage shopping. It’s like a treasure hunt. That’s why I love Vestiaire. Every time I log on to the site, I don’t know what I’ll find. It’s so exciting.
I did a Fendi campaign a few years ago and was chatting with Karl Lagerfeld in between shots. I happened to mention that I didn’t have a Chanel bag. The next day Karl arrived at the studio with a box. I opened the box and it was a Chanel bag. That’s probably the most treasured piece in my closet, as it’s sentimental and was totally unexpected.
My family. I spend so much time travelling by myself, I really treasure family time.
This featured originally ran in in the October 2017 print issue of #legend.