The African Road a la Ralph Lauren

I used to work in fashion. The book The Devil Wears Prada doesn’t even begin to describe the beautiful, yet brutal industry. Everyone knows that the clothes may be free, but the hours are long and the pay leaves a lot to be desired. So, it shouldn’t have been a shock when a girlfriend of mine announced that she was taking a sabbatical from Ralph Lauren.

“I need a change,” Sinead told me over lunch. “I am going to Africa to help children. I want to do something good.”

My reaction was of horror. Don’t get me wrong I love that Angelina Jolie is adopting babies from all over the world, but actually going to Africa? How does one go from $400 dresses to living in poverty?

Two months later I got my answer in the form of an email. The stories Sinead wrote about were amazing. One girl was so poor that her parents couldn’t afford diapers and knew she would soil herself if she was given anything to drink. The little girl was often so thirsty that she would drink dirty water.

Towards the end of Sinead’s stay in Africa, she and the little girl were playing a game, when Sinead realized that the girl had wet her pants. None of the other children laughed. Actually, Sinead was the only person who seemed to notice. As Sinead fumbled to clean the up the girl, she noticed the hand stitched pony woven into the little girl’s sweatpants—the only pair of pants this girl owned were Ralph Lauren.

Ultimately, Sinead decided to stay in Africa for another month. It seemed to serendipitous to ignore a sign like this. When I asked Sinead if she would mind if I wrote a blog about her experience, she commented, “My experience should get all the exposure it can get–because honestly, it was life-changing.”

I am still not sure how well I would fare in Africa, but I know I would look stunning in these shoes that Ralph Lauren named after Sinead when she returned from Africa. Whenever I look at them they remind me of the little girl. Now, if only I could get Ralph to send me over a pair of freebies (hint, hint).


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