Why LuisaViaRoma and UNICEF’s Pairing Is A Perfect Match

The star-studded 2022 Winter Gala brought the world’s elite to help communities in need.


The biggest party of the year didn’t happen on your television screens or on a live feed from your iPhone. It happened on the little but mighty island of St. Barths, as musicians, actors, influencers, members of high society, and international press all gathered on the eve of 2023 to welcome the arrival of LuisaViaRoma x UNICEF’s annual winter gala, in partnership with the Red Sea International Film Festival. Set on the celeb-favorited island of St. Barts’ Emeraude Beach, the world’s elite glammed up with the help of the luxe fashion e-comm site and beauty expertise of Charlotte Tilbury to join forces in helping raise funds, over $3 million to be exact, through the evening’s dazzling live auction hosted by Simon de Pury for one of the most exclusive charity events of the season.

Photography by Lucas Possiede

To gather more insight on what makes the gala such a hotly anticipated event, and why the Italian luxury online retailer’s passion for philanthropy lends itself to a greater cause, VMAN chatted with Andrea Panconesi (Founder of LuisaViaRoma), Luisa Panconesi, and Alessandra Rossi (CEO of LuisaViaRoma) to uncover how a little humanity can help the greater good of the globe.

Photography by Lucas Possiede

VMAN: What was the inspiration behind starting this fundraising initiative with UNICEF?

Andrea Panconesi: Well obviously, it was to raise money for the children. I am a father and grandfather to children. One day, my daughter [Luisa Panconesi] had the idea to do a foundation for children. [I’ll admit], I had no idea where to start first as I have no time. During that time, I was one hundred percent concentrated on growing the company. So I told her, maybe it’s a good idea if we join [forces] with somebody who knows how to do this better than us and we chose UNICEF, and that’s how it started [about] 7 years ago. The first two [fundraising galas] were in Sardinia, then the next three in Capri for the summer gala. And now this is the second winter gala that we’re doing in St. Barths.

VMAN: How does the event differ from all of the rest that you’ve done before?

AP: It’s all the same format, one night only, [but each become] unique because everyone [attending] is different from the previous ones, and the performances are all different. This time, we have Drake and Lenny Kravitz, which is incredible.

Photography by Lucas Possiede

VMAN: Are you a fan of Drake?

AP: Yes, of course. I think his work is very forward-looking. I think that’s why we choose him because he’s doing something adventurous [with his work], something special. He’s not doing what everybody else is doing, and we like to do that as well, even in our business. 

VMAN: It was great hearing that the island has been so accommodating and helpful toward supporting this fundraising initiative. We’ve heard it is one of the biggest events ever thrown on the island.

AP: The mayor of St. Barths was very, very happy. They’ve helped us find a great location, a huge location, and the good thing about this event [for the community] is that we hired a lot of local help to [come and partake in the services], which has been one month [in development].

Photography by Lucas Possiede

VMAN: With the importance of fashion lending itself towards the betterment of the globe, why is there such a passion for philanthropy for LuisaViaRoma to make a huge impact in the community around it? 

AP: [Originally], I was not born with the idea [of working in fashion]. I had no idea about fashion whatsoever, so for me, it was very difficult to get into it. It took me a few years to understand the business, but I think something that takes you a long time and a lot of effort to understand, you have a lot of satisfaction in the end. It’s not a major art, it’s not music, it’s not like a sculpture or painting that you see in a museum, it was not my passion. Passion to me is the center of everything else, you know? Philanthropy [is a passion], because it’s something that you do out of your heart and you do it because you are a human being. We would try to do the same thing if we were in the art business. As a matter of fact, some of the biggest art dealers will be coming tonight, so it’s art, music, performance, and fashion–it’s all connected. I really believe that in your life, if you do good for others, you get [that back in return] for yourself. 

Photography by Lucas Possiede

VMAN: Now that it’s the seventh time doing this, and UNICEF has been the main partner for the ride, how have you actually seen the impact help communities? What has been some of the progress that you’ve seen change for the better?

Luisa Panconesi: We had the chance to see on-site what UNICEF is doing for not only the children, but the whole community, [including] refugee camps–it was really powerful. One of the things that impacted me the most was how they they managed to help the Syrian children and their families, while also integrating them into the community. Imagine being in a different country than your own for 10 years and you don’t know when you can leave and it’s not by choice. It takes a lot of willpower to go there because it’s heartbreaking. Very emotional, but this makes us very proud to can be part of this and I think it’s something good that we can do as a community, together. So it’s not just us [internally], but all the people that come to the gala to support.

Photography by Lucas Possiede

Kevin Ponce is VMAN’s Digital & Beauty Editor.

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