Over the past quarter century, the Fashion Footwear Association of New York and the QVC network have worked hand in hand to help find a cure for breast cancer by raising money for first-step research. Now, as the QVC Presents FFANY Shoes on Sale fundraiser heads into its 26th year, the organizers are placing a renewed focus on strategic giving rather than celebrity star power.
John Heron, who took the helm of FFANY in January, told FN, “I’m trying to make the event more about the work that we do and the money that we are raising. I wanted to shift the tone. The focus is on the charity and the more than $57 million raised over the last 25 years. We are keeping it more real. We got lost in what the purpose was and what we were all in the room for.”
At this year’s gala on Oct. 10 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York, emphasis will be placed on where the money is going, how far the research has come and the impact it has had on patients.
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Some of the beneficiaries for 2019 include Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center, Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and, for the first time, the Cancer Vaccine Institute at the University of Washington.
Leading the charge on this front is former FFANY president Ron Fromm, who is now chair of the nonprofit’s philanthropic arm, the Fashion Footwear Charitable Foundation of New York.
He said, “We give money to the scientific minds with a strong belief that they are on to something special.” Fromm added that because of FFANY’s donations from the beginning, doctors and researchers have received more than $300 million in additional government and private grants, based on the work funded by FFANY.
An area that has specifically seen progress in helping to cure breast cancer is vaccines, according to Fromm. That treatment approach is a major focus for Shoes on Sale this year, which is why the University of Washington became a beneficiary.
Mary L. ‘Nora’ Disis, director of the university’s Cancer Vaccine Institute, explained, “We are the largest academic group dedicated to developing vaccines for cancer prevention, as well as cancer recurrence. Our goal has always been to develop vaccines for women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer so that they may never develop it. These flexible funds will support pilot research so that we can move quickly when we have a new promising project.”
While this year’s Shoes on Sale will focus on the medical work and personal stories of survivors, Heron is also determined to maximize the efficiency of the dollars spent, which is why attendees at the gala will see some changes. For instance, in lieu of a designer shoe salon, there will be a virtual version powered by Zappos to help drive sales and reduce costs.
Upon arrival at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, guests will be able to select from an assortment of more than 60 designer styles on display throughout the venue, which can be purchased for half off using a unique code from Zappos.com.
“All sales will be fulfilled and shipped by Zappos, and net proceeds of purchases will be directed to the charitable efforts,” said Jeff Espersen, VP of merchandising at the e-tailer.
He explained that evolving the selling strategy was top of mind for FFANY. “The problem with the traditional model was that it required a tremendous amount of staffing, space and logistical resources that actually cost the charity tens of thousands of dollars to execute each year,” said Espersen. “This solution is a great opportunity [for Zappos] to play a bigger role in this event and make the evening more efficient by adding our digital and logistical expertise to the effort.”
Other brands participating in the cause are the Pink Benefactors, who contributed at least $500,000 worth of merchandise to the fundraiser. They include Caleres, Marc Fisher Footwear and Designer Brands Inc., whose CEO, Roger Rawlins, will also attend the gala to accept the Company of the Year Award from FFANY.
The footwear donated by the Pink Benefactors, along with 40 other brands, will be featured not only on Zappos but also on QVC.com, as well as on QVC’s live, three-hour Shoes on Sale broadcast, which will also take place on Oct. 10. Heron noted that the quality of the assortment donated this year has been impressive.
Marc Fisher, founder and CEO of his eponymous shoe company, has been a longtime Shoes on Sale contributor. He told FN, “[We] are incredibly proud of the amount of money that has been raised ever since the inception of this event, which was started by the Fisher family in Central Park in 1993. Every effort counts. The mission is to find a cure. At Marc Fisher Footwear, we have committed several of our brands to the cause because we know this horrible disease touches so many lives, including many of our customers. The hope is that the money we raise for research will accelerate the advancement of a cure.”
And it’s because of QVC that the gala has been so successful, according to Heron. “Without QVC, we wouldn’t be able to raise this money,” he said. “They are our link to consumers, and without that link, we wouldn’t be able to turn the donations of shoes into money for charity.”
The retail network joined the cause in 1994, and to recognize its 25-year commitment, QVC will be honored by FFANY with the Jodi & Jerome Fisher Humanitarian Award during the show.
In addition to QVC and Designer Brands Inc., FFANY is also set to recognize Rebecca Minkoff at the gala with the Designer of the Year award, while Jamie Salter, founder, chairman and CEO of Authentic Brands Group, will be honored with the Influential Figure in Fashion award.
“This started as a genuine concern from the footwear industry on how to solve a problem that’s near and dear to everyone: curing breast cancer,” added Heron. “There’s so much uncertainty in the world right now, and it is important to take the focus back and say what we are here for.”
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