Though fashion, public health, and social activism may seem like entirely separate fields, Kavitha Das, Dental ’09, has found a career where they go hand in hand.
Das is the coordinator of the upcoming Diwali Fashion Show and Party, which will be held Oct. 17 at Lair Lounge. The show is being sponsored by Lend-A-Hand India, a New York-based nonprofit that provides vocational training, career development, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities to young boys and girls in rural and urban Indian communities.
The Diwali Fashion Show will feature unique Indian jewelry by designer Hetal Kothari and the Tijorie Jewelry line, as well as a clothing collection by Vasu Gandhi. The designs are styled around Indian sensibilities for the festive Diwali season. All proceeds from the event will go toward LAHI’s projects in India.
Isabel Narea talked to Das about drawing from her Columbia experience in this new endeavor.
Isabel Narea: What was the most memorable aspect of your Columbia experience?
Kavitha Das: Being able to approach my education with a unique angle, as I studied public health and dentistry at the same time. My public health background made me become involved in nonprofits early on. While at Columbia, I worked with many NGOs in different capacities and helped coordinate many different events with different organizations. Becoming involved in Lend-A-Hand India was simply the next step for me.
IN: Why did you become involved with Lend-A-Hand India?
KD: As an Indian interested in working for NGOs, I wanted to get involved with an organization that was authentic and doing something that was needed. The unemployment situation had been going on in India for years. LAHI wanted to make a difference by giving these kids the life skills and training to make a living. I enjoy being involved in LAHI because I know that what we do here is going toward changing the life of a child. If you think about 40 dollars for us, it’s really nothing. But that one expenditure can change the entire life of a child in India. To be affiliated with an organization that is helping kids in a way so that they can eventually sustain themselves is a phenomenal thing to do, and the impact it has on the child is enormous. I also knew there was a lot of energy involved in the organization after meeting the officers and staff and knew this would make the experience more fulfilling.
IN: What inspired you to choose fashion as a venue for your activism?
KD: While LAHI often hosts panel discussions, I wanted to approach the project by using something that is unconventional. People come back from a long day of work and want to attend an event where they can relax and enjoy themselves. I also took on the project with my contacts in mind—including clothing designers, jewelry designers, and small-business owners such as caterers who contribute to the event. The show allows fashion designers to make a mark in the fashion world, and the show eventually becomes a publicity event for both the designer and the NGO. It also allows for a little bit of lightheartedness and a good time toward a good cause—and New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world.
Lend-A-Hand India’s Diwali Fashion Show and Party is Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Lair Lounge, 201 Lafayette St. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $40 or online for $30.