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Fashion Week shows off for Haiti

By Andrea Mineo, CNN
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Fashon for Relief
  • Open of N.Y. Fashion Week braved snowstorm, designer Alexander McQueen's death
  • Naomi Campbell used Fashion for Relief to benefit Haiti
  • Supermodel doesn't walk runway much anymore, but she did for charity

New York (CNN) -- New York Fashion Week kicked off in a literal and figurative storm late last week, as a blizzard rolled through town and designer Alexander McQueen's death shocked participants.

The massive snowfall threatened designer merchandise and attendees from making it into the tents at Bryant Park, but the weather wasn't the most sobering element affecting the start of fashion week. The tragic death of McQueen -- just 40 years old -- on the eve of his first New York showing made the fashion world turn on its high heels.

"It so reinforces in many ways the fragility not only of life, of course, but what this industry's about, and the amount of pressure that everybody's under," says Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion.

Once the storm passed and the news of McQueen's untimely death had waned slightly, the shows under the big tents went on, most notably Fashion for Relief, a Friday event spearheaded by veteran catwalk diva Naomi Campbell.

Campbell, who owned the runways in her supermodel heyday, rallied her fashion friends to help raise money for Haiti the best way they know how: Designers donated clothes for the show, and some, such as Diane Von Furstenberg and Donna Karan, also walked the Fashion for Relief runway.

As for Campbell's signature strut, she told CNN, "I do it for friends, and I do it for charity mostly now."

Walk she did, and if there was ever any doubt that she's still got it, the crowd's cheers for Campbell put that doubt to rest.

Video: Fashion show for Haiti relief

Along with designer contributions to the show and stylist Rachel Zoe backstage making last minute adjustments, Campbell tapped Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Kelly Osbourne, Chris Brown, supermodel pals Helena Christensen and Agyness Deyn and others to walk in the show, too.

CNN spoke with Naomi Campbell about Fashion for Relief and the industry that made her a supermodel. She declined to comment on the death of her friend Alexander McQueen.

CNN: How important is Fashion for Relief to you?

Naomi Campbell: This event is important because it's the fashion community coming together from all over the world -- all the different designers, all the people that have given their time and efforts to be here today to make this happen, and for the people that really need it -- women and babies. We lose a woman and a baby in the world every minute, and in Haiti we could go buy a pair of shoes tomorrow [and the cost] could train someone for a month to be able to deliver a baby to save a life of a mother. So it's very important that we help others who are less fortunate than ourselves.

It's maybe an idea from me, but this idea would never have happened or be into action if it wasn't for everyone collaborating and coming together

CNN: Tell me about the fashion community rallying around this idea.

Campbell: The fashion community has been extremely supportive since we started doing this in 2005 and continue to be so. This is a very busy period for them. They're in the middle of their 2010 winter collections, and we've asked them to basically please stop and pick and donate outfits for tonight. They've been extremely gracious and very patient. And I'm really happy that it could happen.

CNN: When you saw what happened in Haiti did you immediately want to reach out and help?

Campbell: What's great about working with White Ribbon Alliance and CARE --a partnership for maternal health issues around the world -- is that being an ambassador we can do things all over the world and it's all over the world that needs the help. The statistics are horrifying, and we're not even halfway through our goal. And now finally the heads of states in all the world are starting to recognize that maternal health is a serious issue, and we need to support it and we need to take it seriously.