NEW YORK -- Michael Kors knows a few things about getting his message out. His ads, fashion shows and even his favorite models and socialites pretty much ooze the jet-setter lifestyle he embodies. On Wednesday, however, he embarks on a new campaign: World Food Day.
Of course, it will have the slick fashion touch. There will be user-generated content from shoppers, celebrities and activists on 12 of the largest billboards in Times Square; content that will be replicated on the WatchHungerStop.com website. Kors aims to have 10,000 to 20,000 images go up during the event.
Models Lily Aldridge and Chanel Iman will be wearing their Watch Hunger Stop T-shirts, stores will be selling the fundraising watch that Kors designed, and a God's Love We Deliver gala event will be held to bestow the Michael Kors Award for Outstanding Community Service to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It was the year to go big on World Food Day, Kors said, thanks to his rapidly growing company that enjoyed a successful IPO in 2011 and earnings that nearly tripled in the last fiscal year. He said the company's philanthropic efforts should grow, too, while focusing on a specific platform, and he couldn't ask for a better partner than the United Nations World Food Programme.
His connection to World Food Day goes back to the 1980s and God's Love We Deliver, a New York-based organization that delivers meals to those in need. That's when AIDS was hitting the fashion industry hard.
"God's Love had this seemingly simple mission of delivering nutritious meals to people too ill to leave their homes. I saw what a difference that small act made, both to those receiving the food and to those who helped prepare and deliver the meals," Kors said.
"So when I was looking to expand the scope of our philanthropy, hunger seemed a natural cause to commit to. I was also drawn to the direct nature of fighting hunger -- I'm a results-oriented person, and this is a problem we can affect."
Kors said he knows fighting hunger is one of many causes that compete for compassionate consumers' attention. October, for example, is known around the world as breast-cancer awareness month.
"So, we thought, `How do you make a lot of noise?' Times Square, of course, and the Internet. So we're using social media to bring everyone to Times Square, where they can help spread the word," he said.
There's no irony, or there shouldn't be, that a fashion designer is tackling hunger after years of headlines about fashion's too-skinny models.
"They're two completely separate issues," Kors said. "The debate over skinny models has absolutely nothing to do with trying to feed starving children in the developing world. People know the difference."