Ebel and Vogue come together for HIV/AIDS awareness

Two iconic companies—Ebel, the luxury watchmaker, and Vogue, the revered fashion magazine—teamed up last Wednesday on a festive fall evening to welcome in the Ebel Classic Sport Collection of watches at Tourneau off Fifth Avenue in New York City.

The night also had a charitable aim, with a portion of the proceeds going toward Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, an organization that works to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic through educational programs in New York City.

The event brought together the style and the media worlds to raise a glass, as well as raise awareness.

The night was held at Tourneau, the hallowed hall of watches, which is known as the largest watch store in the world. The store, at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, served as the perfect locale for a hefty gathering of concerned New Yorkers, a group that really knows how to combine style and substance.

The hosts for the evening were fashion designer Minnie Mortimer and Creative Director of Lucy Sykes New York, Lucy Sykes Rellie. Executives from Ebel and Tourneau were in attendance, as well as Jasmine Nielsen, executive director of Love Heals.

Matthew Simonelli, a costume designer and fashion stylist, was present at the party, shopping in support of an issue he feels very strongly about.

“The cause is unparalleled in its importance. I feel like this message is just crucial to spread,” Simonelli said. “There are always younger generations, and now it is striking again.”

Love Heals educates the young people in New York about HIV/AIDS so they can make more informed choices when it comes to protecting themselves.

The organization was founded after New Yorker Alison “Ali” Gertz, who was infected with HIV through a single sexual encounter when she was 16. Gertz made her story very public. She did a New York Magazine cover story in 1989 and became an internationally recognized spokesperson for AIDS awareness and prevention.

As a young, female, straight Caucasian, Gertz busted open the widely accepted myth that the disease only affects gay males. After she died in 1992, Gertz’s three best friends – Stefani Greenfield, Victoria Leacock Hoffman and Dini von Mueffling – co-founded Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education.

Fifteen years later, Love Heals reaches approximately 40,000 young people annually through its speakers’ bureau, educational video and lesson guide, and girls’ empowerment program.

“We have a lot of great people who had a connection to Alison Gertz and continue to give based on that connection,” Nielsen said.

They also are receiving support from two big-name sponsors: Vogue and Ebel.

“Vogue and Ebel really liked partnering with us because we’re doing a lot of work around girls’ empowerment,” the executive director said. “They understand that this is still a priority.”

The statistics that Nielsen rattled off were startling, to say the least.

According to her research, New York City still remains the epicenter of the HIV epidemic: One in 70 New Yorkers is HIV positive, and in some neighborhoods, as much as 2 to 3 percent of the population is infected.

“People still don’t realize there is still a lot of work to be done,” Nielsen said.

Sykes Rellie couldn’t be happier to be hosting the evening’s activities.

“We worked with Dini on hosting the event, making people aware of AIDS education still being a vastly important cause,” said Rellie. “Ebel has made a very generous donation to the night, with all of their resources.”

Alex Grinberg, president of Ebel and Concord Americas, spoke of the timepiece company, which has been in existence since 1911.

“Ebel’s got a very rich history and is very innovative,” Grinberg said proudly. “A lot of brands make men’s watches, but our focus really is women. We think it’s a very underserved market, and there is a lot of potential and opportunity for us.”

Grinberg also said that his company was hugely pleased to have worked on tonight’s event in tandem with the fashion magazine and the nonprofit.

“Vogue brought Love Heals to us, and we think this cause is so, so important. A lot of issues need to be addressed by simple education, and there aren’t a lot of organizations that are dedicated to HIV education,” Grinberg said.

Love Heals celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2012 and will be kicking off a campaign in the spring of 2011 to generate more funding for their very important work.

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