Two Frenchwomen want to use fashion to change the world.
Karen Alletru and Helene Leroyer, both 23, visited Sitka this week to check out the fashions of Alaska for their worldwide charity project "Mode sans Frontieres," or "Fashion without Borders."
Their plan is to travel the world for a year collecting representative or traditional clothing from the places they visit. The clothes will be modeled in charity fashion shows in Paris, New York and other cities, with proceeds going toward clothing the needy around the world.
The women also plan to collect traditional music from each of their 40 scheduled stops, and take photos and videotapes of the landscape.
Alletru and Leroyer approached the United Nations in New York a year ago in hopes of gaining the organization's support. The staff in the secretary general's office told the two that more planning was needed. For the next year, the women raised a million francs ($135,000), made travel arrangements, and signed up 50 volunteer models for the first fashion show.
They received a huge boost Dec. 7, when they made their second pitch for a U.N. endorsement, and the wife of Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nane, asked to meet them.
They were surprised to attract the media's attention in New York, and wound up appearing on national TV in France. But the big news was receiving the official support of the United Nations, they said.
After the project is finished, and it's time to distribute the proceeds, Alletru and Leroyer said they will work through U.N.-related organizations but on the local level in communities.
In Sitka, they want to find "the typical dress of Sitka," Alletru said.
The women were introduced to some of the region's traditional workday clothing, including Xtra Tufs.
The Web address for Fashion without Borders is www.modesansfrontieres.org.