Fashion for a Cause


A new collection by Bally Switzerland is always special. The company has been crafting luxury leather goods for more than 160 years and is known the world over for its beautiful designs, distinctive style and exquisite quality. The new Lips for Life capsule collection, however, is extra special.

Bally has joined forces with DKMS Americas in the fight to eradicate blood cancer by creating an exclusive line of products available online and in select stores in late October.

Bally is not just another fashion house doing its bit for charity. The collection is beautifully understated and carefully constructed to reflect the ethos and purpose behind it. It features the DKMS Lips for Life logo and includes beautifully crafted leather pieces for men and women in classic black or carmine red. Fifteen percent of all sales will be donated to assist DKMS Americas in funding new bone marrow registrations.

It is these registrations that are at the core of DKMS Americas. Its mission is to eliminate blood cancer by empowering people to take action, give bone marrow, and save lives. Spearheading DKMS Americas is Katharina Harf, whose drive and passion comes from her own personal loss.

In 1990, her mother, Mechtild, was diagnosed with an acute form of blood cancer. The family was told only a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor could save her life. But with just 3,000 donors available in Germany at the time, finding a match seemed hopeless.

Desperate to save his wife, Harf’s father, Peter, rallied support from family, friends and volunteers to get people to register as bone marrow donors. Remarkably, they managed to register over 68,000 donors in one year, and DKMS was founded in 1991. Sadly, that same year, Mechtild lost her battle to blood cancer. Harf was only 14.

What began as a mission to save one woman is now a global movement. Today, DKMS is the largest bone marrow donor center in the world, with more than 3.6 million registered donors globally.

Harf is leading the way. She has established a donor recruitment program and national campaigns throughout the U.S. to raise awareness and increase the diversity of the donor registry. She is also the drive behind the many celebrity endorsements and the special relationship with the world of fashion.

“In the beginning, only the hospitals knew us because of our large donor pool in the U.S.” says Harf. “But we needed to get to the people because we needed donors. In this respect, celebrities like Rihanna, 50 Cent and Jennifer Lopez, as well as our friends in fashion have helped enormously in getting our message out there.”

The basic message is that it’s incredibly difficult to find a donor but so easy to register as one. Many people are surprised to learn that it’s as simple as registering online and taking a cheek swab.

Harf’s work, however, is never easy as families continue to lose loved ones to blood cancer. The hardest moments, she concedes, are when children’s lives are at stake.

“The stories that touch you the most are the ones that hurt you the most,” she says. “But this only makes us work harder.”

The happiest moments, she adds, are when people have a successful transplant and are able to meet their donors.

“The continuation of life through the altruistic act of a stranger is one of the greatest miracles,” says Harf.

DKMS Americas has registered more than 300,000 donors in the U.S., and 700 donors have saved lives by donating their bone marrow.

This is due to tireless efforts in spreading the word and calls for action through special events, fund-raisers and collaborations such as the one with Bally.

“I’m ecstatic about the Bally collection,” says Harf. “It combines beauty and fashion with saving lives, and it is so connected to the cause.”

The lip design was chosen as a logo because lips are a gateway to saving a life — a reference to the cheek swab required of potential donors.

The collection features the “Lips for Life” logo with subtle embossing on the leather. Pieces for women include a red belted leather jacket, a stylish tote, and a wristlet. For men, Bally has created a classic black biker jacket and an iPad case.

Her mother, says Harf, loved fashion.

“She had a passion for fashion, loved good design, loved to make a fashion statement. She did it seamlessly and with such ease. I think she would be proud of us, my father, my sister and me, in that we took her loss and moved with such force to help others.”

To learn more about becoming a bone marrow donor:

Text by Ellen Georgiou