TIBET FUND: An Amazing Evening
I have been fortunate to have some amazing experiences on this journey of the last six years since Mahlia Collection began, and they all have a special place; galloping on horseback through the fields outside of Oxford on a clear, dewy and sunny September morning;standing on the balcony of the Hotel D'Evreux, in the Place Vendome, looking out over the plaza with my jewelry collection on display behind me; swimming in the warm ,sublime blue of the Pacific with the distant sounds of waves crashing behind the reef. But these memories are all self contained. They are all about me and my experience. But to share in the evening of the Tibet Fund, was about going outside myself to share an emotional bond with strangers who were aligned with the sole purpose of helping a gentle people in need - and the camaraderie, the hope, the faith that we can change things in our small way... made it an extraordinarily special night.
My lawyer, Geoffrey Menin, is the house counsel for the Tibet Fund. How he came to be my lawyer is a story in of itself, but destiny is always at work, and so it is, that he is my lawyer and friend today. When he was introduced to me, it was with the caveat that, "He is one of the good guys," as has proven to be true.He knows how much my heart guides my work and he has been a loyal support because he too believes in good things. He represents creatives.What more is there to say?
When I was in NY in March, having lunch, he asked if I would like to donate something for this special evening to be held for the Tibetan people. As I say in my manifesto, "I believe in fighting for the underdog,"so without pause, I said, "Of course."
I had referenced the Dalai Lama, used his quotations often to inspire my self and I hoped, others, knew something of him, but this was a real commitment that could not be taken lightly. I have donated to children;s funds, multiple sclerosis, fire brigades, chlidren's cancer... all noble and worthy causes. But this was a cause to keep a whole culture alive from extinction. From oppression. From cruelty rooted in inequality and intolerance. To help in any small way was such an honour.
I started to read up on the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan history, and became more fascinated and connected through what I learned. They are such a gentle, inoffensive people. I had used the Dalai Lama's quote as my own, when I said, " My religion is kindness." I wanted to share his wisdom, his sweet direction when I repeated, " The purpose of life is to be happy."These were and are such simple, profound, and egalitarian thoughts. There are no rules or punishment here. Only gentle reminders and thoughtful guidance.
I wanted to donate a piece that had a good chance to be successful at auction; something for a man or a woman that was wearable and sharp- so I chose to donate the sword pendant I have in my sterling collection. I love and am passionate about sharing the language of symbolism in my work, and the choice was so instinctive, it wasn't until after I made my choice, that I realized what I was saying; because the sword, is the sword of Truth and Justice. The pieces from the sterling collection have been named with cities from around the world- past and present. The sword had the name "Oska." I sent an e-mail to the Fund saying that in honour of my honour to participate, the pendant was going to be renamed, "Lhasa", for the capital of Tibet.
I am female, and I am a designer, so the next question was, "What do you wear to meet the Dalai Lama?"I looked through my assortment from Mahlia Collection and decided on the soft grey silk taffetta dress with the cream fringe.My evening
clothes tend to ride the edge of provocative and sexy. Not what I was going to wear to meet His Holiness. I thought that the grey silk hit the right spot.Pretty, elegant, different and very " me." Dress concerns were out of the way.
We sent off the pendant to NY and made travel arrangements, because every time I'm in NY I make sure to fill every minute I can to the maxx. I live in Tucson and there are a lot of people I need to network and work with in NY.
The day of the event arrived, I was in NY, and it was pouring rain. What else was new. It seemed to happen to more often than not, that if I had to get to an event in NY... I had to deal with my hair, dress and shoes being drenched from lobby to curb, and the drama of getting a cab in the rain. No matter how well I tried to plan, I was running 15 minutes late for the event, and traffic was not co-operating. "NO!!" I wailed at the cab driver counting the blocks as we hit yet another red light. "I can't be late!" "I can't be late for this event...you don't understand!!!" He was very sympathetic and tried his best...but I was 15 minutes late and a s stressed as though it were an hour.DIgnitaries were passing through the doorway at the Pierre Hotel and I immediately felt underdressed. Two soldiers in military regalia greeted me as I passed between them, and men in black tie and women in long ball gowns were both in front and behind. I was thinking, "oh shit." At the top of the stairway, two more guards and a gigantic floral arrangement. I asked coat check for directions to the event, and then realized that people were coming in the door for two different events. One for the Tibet Fund, and one for a diplomatic event across the way. Relief.
I saw Geoffrey and his wife almost immediately upon arriving and form then on in , it was just 'good'. Good to be with good people, good to be part of that event, good to meet new great people. Good.
Soon after it was announced that the participating artists should make their way to the front to receive our 'Thanks' from the newly elected Tibetan president. We stood in a line and one by one were thanked individually for our hep. I have never been thanked before, never mind with a gift and a public acknowledgment.I find that most events see it as all done and over with once they receive the donation.We were given ceremonial thanks and all of us felt very honoured and very touched.
Then in to a beautiful ballroom with ten long tables, each one headed by a portable stove and a team of culinary artists. The head of the Tibet fund stood up to introduce the chefs, who had all donated their time and the time of their teams to prepare our banquet. As the president said. "A feast is used in celebration. We are here to celebrate our friendships and our evening together." And four sublime courses followed, prepared by somme of the best chefs in the world, interspersed with laughter and conversation.
Before dessert, two amazing philanthropists, Shelly and Donald Rubin were introduced for their 30 years of unstinting and committed devotion to the Tibetan people, introduced by Geoffrey, and then it was time to speak of another man's diligent advocacy of this wonderful culture, and that was Richard Gere. I think that what was most impressive was to be made aware of his unwavering support, commitment and determination to help the Dalai Lama and his people through 30 years of mostly unseen work. He reaction to the 'Thanks" was so heartfelt, (he couldn't speak a couple of times as he choked with emotion) as he shared his life changing memories through the years; memories shared in hearth and home of these people who he said, had given himself, and the world, so much in the person of the Dalai Lama. He was eloquent, charming, self deprecating and handsome. Everyone loved him.It was personal and it was heartwarming.
And that was the finale to a wonderful experience. One for the memory books.
I soon decided that there were a lot more people who could be helped in Tibet by creating something from their wonderful handicrafts. The western world and eastern cultures were connected through centuries by this wonderful corridor called "The SIlk Road,"where tradesman carried their wars from east to west on camel, horse and mule for thousands of miles. My Greek ancestors, starting with Alexander the Great, believed that we were to be one people and learn from one another, and so it seemed the perfect title for the new collection that will come from Mahlia - using TIbetan materials and Greek heritage in unison .