Film and fashion joined forces for a good cause Thursday night, when a constellation of celebrities including Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgewick, Minnie Driver, Emma Roberts, Pamela Anderson, Fergie, Josh Duhamel, Rachel Zoe and Poppy Delevingne celebrated the opening of the Paris Photo Los Angeles international photography fair at Paramount Studios, then decamped to Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills for a private dinner and silent auction to benefit Haitian relief -- all at the behest of Sean Penn and Giorgio Armani.
Although the designer himself was not in attendance, his niece Roberta Armani was on hand to represent the family and the brand in style. "Sean Penn is a life-changer," she said, explaining that the actor, a longtime Armani devotee, first contacted her uncle for help raising money for Haiti three years ago, and that they have hosted three previous fundraising events together.
In his remarks, Penn said Armani's efforts have raised millions and helped "coordinate the delivery of 50 million gallons of safe, clean water." In honor of Thursday night's event, Armani personally donated $500,000.
For the third year, Giorgio Armani is sponsoring Paris Photo, which is being held this weekend in Los Angeles for the first time, at Paramount Studios. At the fair, the brand has installed the “ACQUA #3” exhibition, a collection of unpublished photographs taken by the photographer Jim Goldberg in Haiti. Gold is a professor of Art at the California College of the Arts* and a member of Magnum Photos.
The snapshots of life in Haiti demonstrate how water is at the center of life on the island, conveying a sense of hope amid an earthquake-ravaged landscape.
Water supply is a social commitment that Giorgio Armani has been dedicated to since 2011, when the brand created the “Acqua for Life” project, which earmarks funds from the sale of two Armani fragrances to buy safe drinking water for poor countries. This year, the project is also supporting the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, the nonprofit founded by Penn with the mission of saving lives and bringing sustainable programs to the Haitian people.
Penn was self-deprecating as he urged dinner guests to bid on the photographs by Danny Moder and Jim Goldberg of Haiti and its people -- many of which happened to feature the star himself.
"The worst part of this auction is that there are pictures of me," Penn said. "But I guess it's proof that even photos of the most reptilian creature can make money. ... I suggest you bid on them and when you win turn around and sell them on EBay -- and then give us part of that money too. I won't be angry. I give you my permission."
Penn, who got involved after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, said there isn't any reason why "a country of 9 million people an hour and a half away from Miami" shouldn't have access to things like basic pain medication and clean drinking water.
[*Update 3:52 p.m. April 26, 2013: An earlier version of this post inadvertently referred to the California College of the Arts by its former name. The name was changed from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 2003.]