Teaching young people how to make creative, pop culture-based awareness campaign messages that resonate with their peers is crucial to success. The fashion industry, an element of popular culture, is typically characterised by stilettos and status, but new campaigns like Designers Against AIDS (DAA) aim to transcend this image of fashion and focus attention toward world issues. RACHEL POLLOCK reports.
DAA in conjunction with Antwerp PRIDE launched a safe sex campaign on the city trams of Antwerp, Belgium in June 2010. This campaign, dubbed “Beauty Without Irony”, was one of many victories for the international project, which includes more than 65 AIDS outreach campaigns.
Key to the campaign is the use of pop culture to promote AIDS awareness in the international media, the general public, and more specifically, young people.
“I was a single mother of two teenagers when I started DAA in 2004; at some point I just called the switchboard of H&M in Stockholm to suggest my idea and they said yes! This was the first time in their then 65-year existence that they accepted a proposal that came from outside their company. Two years later, I was in New York in meetings with UNFPA, UNESCO, etc,” says Ninette Murk, the founder and director of DAA.
Since the collaboration with fashion giant H&M in 2008, DAA has launched the global Fashion Against AIDS (FAA) campaign. The campaign enables designers to produce clothing with a significant message and thus generates money for this cause. The line has retailed and sold in H&M stores throughout the world, donating 25 percent of the sales price to various HIV/AIDS awareness projects.
The campaign receives support from celebrities like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Dita Von Teese, Cyndi Lauper, Moby, and Timbaland. In the spring of 2009, the second FAA campaign hit stores in 30 countries, and the line was sold in over 1000 stores.
Despite its success, Murk says she is still devoted to spreading her message to the world, including areas far removed from the fashion industry. DAA’s most recent development campaign involves celebrity designed t-shirts made of organic cotton and produced locally in South Africa. The hope is that the use of celebrity culture will help inspire social awareness in young people throughout the world.
Murk says, “I think pop cultures in general are excellent ‘carriers’ to get messages across to a young public as they’re so attractive and in many cases, fast.”
A huge component to the outreach campaign is an education centre that was built in Belgium in summer 2010. In 2011 Murk plans to open another International HIV/AIDS Awareness Education Centre (IHAEC) in Los Angeles, USA, expanding the market and teaching young people how to make creative, pop culture-based HIV prevention campaigns that resonate with their peers.
“We will teach young people from all over the world in creative workshops how they can make HIV prevention campaigns using elements from local pop culture. This is not the same in every country–some are, such as music by Lady Gaga or the Twilight films–but each country also has its own stars and if they can participate in prevention campaigns, this would work really well,” Murk says.
A MediaGlobal Article