YOU know her from your TV screens — always impeccably stylish, with not a hair out of place.
Her home features a well-stocked walk-in-wardrobe, a splendid treasure trove of beautiful clothes and accessories; the envy of any fashion-forward woman.
But Lorraine Keane has an admirable generous streak which compels her to share the contents of her wardrobe for a good cause.
Last May she teamed up with Oxfam to host Fashion Relief in Dublin, which raised €60,000 for people facing hunger in East Africa, Yemen and beyond. The event offered the public the opportunity to bag a bargain from the wardrobes of their favourite style icons or from a beloved brand, boutique or designer, all while raising vital funds for Oxfam’s work worldwide, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty, as well as saving lives when disaster strikes..
Such was the success of the inaugural Fashion Relief, this year there is a triple chance to purchase celebrities’ clobber, with events to be held in Galway, Dublin and Cork.
The Cork extravaganza will be the first of the three, taking place at City Hall this Sunday, February 17, from 11am to 5pm, showcasing rail after rail of designer and premium clothes and accessories starting at just €5. Attendees will also enjoy two fashion shows and get fashion advice and styling tips from leading Irish stylists and social influencers.
Far from being merely a big name attached to the event, requiring her to simply show up on the day, Lorraine is putting in a lot of hard graft, sourcing the services and personnel needed to run the event — not to mention the donation of 200 pieces from her own wardrobe (she donated a whopping 400 items last year for the Dublin event).
So how did her association with Oxfam come about?
“It was because I saw a post made by Oxfam on Facebook and I was shocked. It said in another 12 months another million people will die of starvation in Yemen, Ethiopia, etc.
“ANOTHER million!” she emphasises. “I’m in the media, I’m a journalist, I read a lot and it was the first I’d heard of it. So the event was to create awareness. I know how generous Irish people are and if they realise the severity of the situation they will want to do something to help. I didn’t want to do a fancy-pants ball as they can be quite exclusive. Not everyone can afford the €150 ticket. I wanted something inclusive for everyone. So it’s €10 in on the door and it’s about shopping and bagging a bargain. It’s 100 per cent guilt-free shopping.”
Lorraine has consistently been raising awareness for those less well-off since leaving her full-time employment with TV3 nine years ago, taking an annual trip to some of the world’s poorest countries.
“I had three trips with Trocaire, three trips with World Vision Ireland and this is my second year with Oxfam. After my first trip I knew there was no going back then. Once I knew I could help, I’m in it for the long haul. I know my going out there and talking about it increased fundraising. People know me and trust me and know that I have no ulterior motive.”
Her family might not always be so keen on the idea though.
“They’re not mad about it to be honest. They try to change my mind. My mom lights candles every day because these places aren’t the safest. But I don’t go to very high risk areas. I always say, much as I want to save other babies I need to come back safely to my own”, she says, referencing daughters Amelia, aged 15, and Romy, aged 12.
With Oxfam, Lorraine travelled to Ethiopia to see some of the ways the funds raised can help people facing hunger and poverty.
“Every day is tough when you see what little people have. It’s very sad to see, just because people were born in a part of the planet that has more natural disasters, more droughts and more poverty, which leads to corruption. It’s not their fault.”
One of her lasting memories from the trip was in the city of Dire Dawa, where the Ethiopian government had allocated a building rather like a festival dome to Somalian refugees.
“There were 920 families in the building with no air conditioning — and it’s a very hot climate — and they were living on mattresses. Outside in the car park people were in huts made of corrugated iron. They were there for a full year with no healthcare, water or food; the place was filthy, people were malnourished and there were all sorts of diseases. When I got there Oxfam had been in with massive water tanks providing clean, safe drinking water every day, plus food, a healthcare clinic, sanitary items for women, corrugated showers and toilets and a laundry. It would break your heart to see it; it was just awful and yet it was a major improvement on what it had been like.”
Lorraine is pleased that €30,000 of the €60,000 raised from her Dublin Fashion Relief last year has gone to that particular project. She is keen to stress that buying just one item at Fashion Relief in Cork this Sunday will make a huge difference and she reckons that designer wedding dresses at €250 are likely to be the most expensive garments.
“We’re pricing everything to sell”, she insists.
Among the celebrities who have donated items are Saoirse Ronan, Vogue Williams, Dáithí Ó Sé, Mary Kennedy, Miriam O’Callaghan and Rob Kearney, while she is also rounding up the likes of models Rosanna Davison, Sarah Morrissey, bloggers James Patrice and Lisa Jordan, plus camogie queen and TV star Anna Geary to make appearances on the day.
For more information, visit: www.fashionrelief.ie and beat the queues by buying tickets in advance at www.ticketweb.ie