Designers Against AIDS

Designers Against AIDS
The First Decade
Ludion Publishers
Let’s skip to page 118, the start of Ninette Murk’s narrative about how Designers against AIDS (DAA) [A&U, July 2009], the nonprofit she founded, evolved over these, its first ten years. Murk, a fashion journalist based in Antwerp, was attending a Paris fashion show with her friend and colleague, Peter Verhelst, a stylist, in 1993. When Peter was harassed for toting in his own folding chair to the back section, where standing marked the difference from those who were privileged to sit, and harassed further in the face of his explanation that he was HIV-positive and that he easily tired, Murk soon learned that status trumped serostatus. Peter died four months later from AIDS-related complications.
Never far from the gravitational pull of this loss, the narrative succinctly relates how she turns to journalism, makes a name for herself writing about the fashion industry, and how, after becoming disillusioned by that industry’s ugly side, she seeks to make a difference in the world.

Though challenges are many, Murk eventually founds DAA and offers the world design collections interwoven with sexual-health consciousness. The delivery method is simple: piggy-back pop culture with safe sex messages directed at youth. Murk works with top creative people in the design world, attracts everyone from Yoko Ono to Katy Perry to Dita von Teese, and partners with Umbro and H&M on various projects.

Along the way, Murk salvages the feeling of being moved by fashion, art, music, and so on, without the need for a postmodern wink or the fear of seeming clichéd. “Beauty without irony,” she calls it. (The phrase serves as the name of the art collective she founded.) And the book is a celebration of “what might be” if we could only marshal our creative energies toward positive change.
I’ve already spent too many words on words. Before the narrative comes a sea of images, a groundswell of support. I am drifting toward the lyrical because I know of no other way to describe the 100 photographers’ and artists’ visions of beauty. Each image is allotted one page, and becomes even more stunning juxtaposed next to another. The book soon becomes an opportunity—one you want to hug to your chest—to be moved, to protect yourself and others, to start unfolding as many chairs as possible.
Part of the revenue from sales will go to the newly opened DAA Education Center. In the U.S., the book is available at Barnes & Noble and Log on to for other purchasing options.

—Chael Needle

December 2010