Fashion, Football Worlds Unite in Paris for Special-needs Children

HAVING A BALL: Soccer moms don’t come more glamorous, or compassionate, than Natalia Vodianova, who wore a red Dior gown with a heart-shaped bodice and Messika Glam’Azone jewelry as she welcomed guests at the inaugural Paris for Good fundraising gala on Thursday night.

The event united the fashion world and European football, and there was rubbernecking galore as superstar players from the Paris Saint-Germain club, headlined by Kylian Mbappé and Achraf Hakimi, poured into a courtyard tucked off the Place Vendôme.

Kylian Mbappé and Natalia Vodianova at the Paris for Good charity fundraiser held at the Place Vendôme on May 16, 2024 in Paris, France.

Kylian Mbappé and Natalia Vodianova

Francois Goize/WWD

The gala raised more than 2.7 million euros for the French branch of Vodianova’s Naked Hearts charity, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the PSG Foundation, both dedicated to children with special needs and their caregivers.

The lively evening featured a blistering set by comedian Tina Friml, a musical performance by English singer Tom Odell, and a heated live auction that saw artworks, soccer memorabilia and luxury experiences sell for hundreds of thousands of euros per lot. Many PSG players prevailed, and seemed to relish the intra-team competition.

In between were heartwarming clips of Vodianova inaugurating playgrounds, and famous PSG players leading training sessions with neurotypical and autistic children.

After greeting the likes of model Maria Borges and Huda Beauty’s Mona Kattan, Olivier Rousteing discussed his love of football.

Maria Borges at the Paris for Good charity fundraiser held at the Place Vendôme on May 16, 2024 in Paris, France.

Maria Borges

Francois Goize/WWD

“I’m French, so I grew up with it. My dad was obsessed with football and I played when I was 8 years old until I was 15,” he said, confessing that his skill at running surpassed his ability to pass the ball.

Now as creative director of Balmain, he has dressed the likes of Hakimi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo. “I always loved the idea of like bringing football to fashion,” he said.

Giambattista Valli brought his 11-year-old son Adam, who raced around the event with other boys collecting autographs from the players, all dressed in black or midnight blue Dior suits with a flap-pocket detail by Kim Jones. “I started to learn how to play football with him,” he related.

The Italian designer related that he once met Mbappé at a party and they talked sports. “He asked me if I played football when I was a kid, and I said, ‘Never.’ And then he says, ‘Oh, then what were you playing?’ I told him, ‘I was playing Barbie.’”

Vodianova and her cohost Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani also welcomed the likes of Christian Louboutin, Camilla Al Fayed, Bianca Brandolini, Wallis Day, Isamaya Ffrench and drag star Miss Fame.

Christian Louboutin and Natalia Vodianova at the Paris for Good charity fundraiser held at the Place Vendôme on May 16, 2024 in Paris, France.

Christian Louboutin and Natalia Vodianova

Francois Goize/WWD

In an interview before the event got underway, Vodianova said a current focus of her charity is early intervention and skills training “for parents and any kind of caregivers looking after children with autism.”

Naked Hearts France is currently adapting a program developed by the World Health Organization.

“Seventy-five percent of children born with autism will be nonverbal. If children go through this program, only 25 percent will remain nonverbal. So it’s really it gives speech, which is communication,” she said. “We’re hoping to establish this event as an occasion every year to gather and celebrate the joint initiative [with PSG], but also the cause that we care about, which is more inclusion for people with autism.”

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