Catching Up With: Billabong’s Candy Harris

Left to Right: Candy Harris with Billabong Design Director Mandy Fry at the SIMA Image Awards.

Candy Harris, Women’s Brand Director at Billabong, took some time to talk with TransWorld Business about the company’s Third Annual Design for Humanity fashion show and art benefit, taking place Wednesday, June 17th at Avalon/Bardot in Hollywood. This year’s musical guests are the Airborne Toxic Event and Iglu and Hartly, and the night will also feature a special art auction, with a portion of all proceeds going to the non profit organization Charity: Water. Harris answered a few questions about the event, fundraising goals and what we can expect for the future.

Last year, Design for Humanity raised significant funds to benefit the Surfrider Foundation. What goal are you trying to reach this year?
We had a great event last year and raised over $80,000 for the Surfrider Foundation between the night of the event and product sales associated with Design For Humanity. This year we're pushing to top that so we'll keep our fingers crossed. The event itself is already 95% sold out so we will easily exceed the ticket sales donation, but we'll have to see how the live art auction and product sales turn out after the event.

What's the selection process like for deciding on a charitable organization for the event?
We look for a non profit organization that has a clear compelling mission and who are able to participate with the event to make the most out of the opportunity. It goes without saying that we research each potential charity and get up to speed with their operation and feel confident that the funds we raise will be directly implemented in the field.

What was it about Charity: Water that prompted Billabong to select them for this year's event?
Charity: Water was an easy choice this year. They are a fantastic organization that has created a lot of change in a short period of time. Since they began their activity in August 2006, Charity: Water has funded the construction of more than 1,247 wells that, when completed, will provide clean drinking water to 650,000 people. In addition to the great work that they do, we love the manner in which they reach a young audience- from the start their means of communication was a perfect match for Design For Humanity.  With a basic goal of bringing fresh drinking water to developing nations, and educating the community on maintaining each well, they are truly transforming the lives of those in need.

Is there an overarching theme for the bikini fashion show this year, or a particular trend that the show designers are zeroing in on? Which designers will be involved this year?
A portion of our Women's Design team participates in the design process under the guidance of our Women's Design Director, Mandy Robinson.  The theme is a modern take on the late 80's, early 90's rock scene.  Imagine cultivating a look of Debbie Harry meets the Sex Pistols…a mad mix of acid washed denim, foiled graphittie, animal prints and everything in between. You won't believe some of the bikinis that will be coming down the runway, our designers are flexing some serious creative muscle and the outcome will turn some heads for sure! The celebrity product collaborations are "under wraps" to be revealed on the runway that evening and available for bidding during the silent art auction that night. We can mention that we have teamed with our Billabong ambassador, Sports Illustrated model Tori Praver, for several runway looks in addition to an in-line bikini which will be available at participating retailers nation-wide beginning in June.  $5 from every Tori Praver for Billabong bikini will be donated to Charity: Water as well.

How do you select the artists featured in the art auctions? How does the art tie into the overall event?
This year we worked with Will Pennartz from the Surf Gallery to curate the art show.  He has pulled together some world renown artists and has truly helped to elevate this portion of the event.  You'll see pieces from the likes of Barry McGee, Julie Goldstein, Wolfgang Bloch and David Lloyd, with the auction starting on ebay June 9th and ending with a live auction the night of the event.  We made a point to include pieces ranging from $50 to $5,000 so art lovers at all levels will have the chance to participate.

How important is an event like this for the brand? How does this type of event help support Billabong and the initiatives of the company?
Charitable initiatives have always been a part of Billabong's DNA, but this event plays a special role for the Women's division. Our intention in creating the concept was to find a way to infuse art, music and fashion as an avenue to engage young people to get involved with the world around them. In this way, 100% of the proceeds from each $30 ticket sale are donated to Charity: Water;  our donation goal for the evening could result in 4,000 people in need receiving fresh drinking water for 20 years. It's an astounding fact that really resonates with a twenty something generation…at this age you might not have hundreds of dollars to donate but $30 is doable and you get a fashion show, live concert and art show as an added plus. Internally, this event provides an amazing creative outlet that keeps us all inspired, and from a bigger perspective, helps showcase what our Industry can do outside of the surf community.

Obviously an event like this takes a great deal of planning and I'm sure everyone working on it logged countless hours. When will you start planning for the 4th annual Design for Humanity? Is there anything you plan to do differently for future events?
With the success of past DFH events, the concept has gone Global with Design For Humanity shows in Paris and Sydney within the last year. As for future events, we will be taking the concept to more International destinations to be announced later in the year. As for this coming June 17th, we have continued to build on and tweak the creative concept to offer up a fresh experience. The event is truly a company wide effort and wouldn't be possible without the hard work of all involved.