Fashion honcho Anna Zegna roots for Andhra Pradesh kids, women

March 25th, 2009 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) With Mahatma Gandhi as her inspiration, Italian fashion honcho Anna Zegna Wednesday held the audience at the International Herald Tribune Sustainable Luxury Summit spellbound as she detailed how a foundation she heads is making a difference in an Andhra Pradesh village.
“We chose Andhra Pradesh because it is India’s seventh poorest state. I am happy to say that in our own little way, we are contributing to improving the lives of a group of women and children through our Care and Share initiative,” Zegna said during the session on “Green: The Heritage, the soul and the future of Zegna”.

“It’s a question of matching the brain with the heart,” she maintained, adding: “I have always been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s line ‘I must confess that I do not draw a sharp line of distinction between business and ethics’.”

“That has always been my guiding philosophy,” said Zegna, who is also the image director of the family-owned $1 billion Ermengeldo Zegna group that is known for its high-quality fabrics.

IHT fashion editor Suzy Menkes, who is chairing the summit, was moved to remark: “Rarely have I heard such an inspiring speech about a company fulfilling its corporate social responsibility.”

Care and Share was begun in 2002 by the Fondazione Zegna set up in memory of Zegna’s grandfather, who founded the Ermengeldo Zegna group in the 1930s.

The project works in three broad areas of children’s education and nutrition and providing micro-finance facilities to women and teaching them tailoring skills.

“We welcome children from slums and from the poorer strata of society and educate them in Telugu and English. So far, we have provided a basic education to some 600 children,” Zegna said.

“On the nutrition front, we analysed the diet of the children with a team of doctors and found that most of them were anaemic. We are thus supplementing their diet with more proteins, poultry and eggs and white meat,” she explained.

“We are also training women in sewing and providing and providing them micro-finance facilities to enable them take up a trade or start a small business,” Zegna said.

By way of illustration, she said five women had begun an embroidery business that operates from the one-room tenement belonging to one in the group that doubles up as the bedroom at night.

“They gather there in the morning after their kids have gone to school and work on the embroidery till the time they return home. In this way, we ensure that they live a life of dignity,” Zegna said.

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