How the Shoe Industry Comes Together to Support Breast Cancer Research

Leading the charge in the fight against breast cancer for the past 25 years, FFANY Shoes on Sale is being honored on Dec. 4 with FN’s Icon Award for Philanthropy (watch the livestream here). Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 3 print issue about the industry event.

Twenty-five years, $55 million — and counting.

The FFANY Shoes on Sale fundraiser marked its silver anniversary this year, having sold more than 2 million pairs of shoes to support breast cancer research and educational programs around the country.

“The anniversary celebration was a special culmination of something that no one ever imagined could deliver the type of results and dramatic advancements in cancer care, research and, most importantly, survival rates,” said Ron Fromm, the departing president of FFANY, who will continue to serve as chairman of the annual charity gala.

Since its start in 1993 in a set of tents in New York’s Central Park, the initiative, which is supported by QVC, has united the footwear community toward a common cause while drawing support from those outside the industry. “Bringing donors, doctors and celebrities together has contributed to creating a gala environment,” said Fromm.

“Sheryl Crow broke through as [one of ] the first celebrity ambassadors — and a breast cancer survivor — [followed] by Natalie Cole, Reba McEntire and Fergie.”

This year’s brand ambassador was music star and footwear designer Katy Perry. “We’re just trying to do our part and give back,” Perry told FN. “My business is fairly new, and we’re always looking for unique ways to be part of different conversations, not just about shoes.”

Fromm noted that one special element of the anniversary was the return of QVC’s live broadcast from the gala. (In recent years, the retail network has aired its Shoes on Sale special on a separate night.) According to Mike George, president and CEO of QVC’s parent, Qurate Retail Group, 80,000 pairs of shoes from 126 brands were for sale during the show this year.

“Each year, I continue to grow more and more proud of the QVC family as well as our FFANY associates who work endlessly on this event as part of our ongoing commitment to support charitable causes that promote the success and wellness of women,“ said George.

Ron Fromm of FFANY and Quarte's Mike George
Ron Fromm of FFANY (L) and Qurate’s Mike George.
CREDIT: Andrew Walker/Shutterstock

“This event is truly a shining moment for us to address an issue of paramount concern not only to our customers but to our team members and surrounding communities, as well.” For some footwear executives, such as designer Marc Fisher, whose late sister Jodi Fisher was the visionary behind the event, Shoes on Sale takes on personal meaning. “My favorite part of [the gala] is seeing the industry band together to raise money for such an important initiative,” said Fisher. “It’s that special time when competitors come together for the common cause.”

Anna Bakst, CEO and brand president of Kate Spade, recalled that camaraderie among industry members was present from the first years of the event. “All of us from different brands set up our booths side by side under a big white tent in Central Park preparing for customers to purchase our shoes, with proceeds going to raise money for breast cancer research,” she said. “As an industry, from that day forward, we never looked back.”

While participation within the footwear arena continues to grow, Fromm said that opportunities remain for even more companies to get involved, particularly in the athletic space. “We need to tap into that [community] as we continue to watch the growth of female leadership in the industry — and in the country — in greater numbers,” he said.

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