The fashion charity established by the supermodel Naomi Campbell has come under formal investigation from the charities watchdog over misconduct concerns relating to its management and finances.
Campbell created Fashion for Relief in 2005 to raise funds for children living in poverty and adversity around the world, and says it has raised millions over the years for good causes through its annual charity fashion show.
The Charity Commission is to examine whether Campbell and her fellow trustees “have properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law”, and will investigate payments made by the charity to one of its trustees.
It will also look at the charity’s spending and the management of Fashion for Relief by its trustees, including potential misconduct and mismanagement and the failure to file statutory annual accounts on time.
Campbell is named as one of three trustees of Fashion for Relief, along with Bianka Hellmich and Veronica Sylvia Wing Wai Au Chou. All are listed as having been trustees of the charity since 2015.
Fashion for Relief has for years held glitzy fashion events to raise money for its charity partners. In 2019, it partnered with Sadiq Khan’s Mayor’s Fund for London to support low-income youngsters with skills and training.
It held a London fashion week show in September that year at the British Museum featuring a fashion show, gala dinner and art auction. Celebrities attending included Campbell, Naomie Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Skepta, and Alexa Chung.
The charity’s website does not appear to say how much money was raised for the Mayor’s Fund, though it displays cuttings from Vogue, Elle and other fashion media with headlines such as Naomi Campbell is Saving the World One Fashion Show at a Time.
The charity is yet to publish its 2020 accounts, which are more than 178 days late according to the Charity Commission’s online register.
The charity’s last set of published accounts show that in the year to July 2019 it raised £1,722,000, most of it through sponsorships. According to the accounts, £1,606,000 of that was spent putting on a charity event and paying for PRs and other staff. Just £5,515 appears to have been given to good causes.
The 2019 accounts also reveal unusually large trustee expenses. Hellmich was paid £77,000 in consultancy fees and £15,942 in travel expenses. The previous year, the charity spent £107,000 on trustees’ fees and £23,000 on expenses.
The Charity Commission for England has been in private discussions with Fashion for Relief for more than a year about what it called a “a range of regulatory concerns”, including late filing of accounts, potential conflicts of interests and weaknesses around financial controls.
The commission has now escalated what had been a compliance issue into a full inquiry – its most serious level of investigation – suggesting the regulator has been unable to satisfy its concerns.
A statement from Fashion for Relief said: “Fashion For Relief (FFR) is fully cooperating with the Charity Commission and will continue to do so throughout the inquiry process. Our hope is to conclude the regulatory engagement with the commission as swiftly as possible.
“Sadly, because of the Covid pandemic we were unable to hold any events or undertake any fundraising activity for over two years. As a result we asked for a formal extension to the accounts deadline. Any suggestion of wrongdoing or misconduct on the part of the trustees is untrue and denied.
“FFR is not solely a fundraising charity. It uses its resources, the relationships and experience of its trustees and associates, and fundraising events, to encourage donations to other charities and good causes. Each of our events has been held for the benefit of a third party charity. At each event, all donations and pledges are made directly to the third party charity.
“Our efforts have resulted in £11.5m of donations to other charities. We have secured extensive global attention and media coverage for causes including Hurricane Katrina, Ebola, women’s mental health, the Haiti earthquake, the Japanese tsunami – plus floods in the UK.
“FFR commits to projects in partnership with multiple sponsors, whose funds enable them to take place. This is not unusual, and many other charities also carry out their work in conjunction with sponsors.
“FFR remains extremely proud of what we have achieved since starting our foundation in 2005. The trustees dedicate a great deal of time and energy into FFR and will continue to do so in order to improve the lives of those living in adversity.”
This article was updated on 27 November to include a statement from Fashion for Relief