When news broke of the horrific Atlanta spa shootings, Arati Rao, Jean Lee, and Jenny Nguyen all texted each other. About how angry they were, how appalled they were and, as three members of the AAPI community themselves, how helpless they felt. “Racism is such a complex issue and it is hard to know where to start,” Nguyen tells Vogue.
But as the saying goes, you have to start somewhere.
Somewhere, for these female founders in the New York design space (Rao runs Tantuvi, Lee is one half of Brooklyn’s Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, and Nguyen heads Hello Human, a public relations collective), was their vast rolodex of artisans and makers. “We wanted to figure out a way to help the families,” says Nguyen. “So we just sent an email out to all the designers we could think of to see if they would be open to coming together to donate products for an Instagram fundraiser.”
They included a link to a Google Sheet where creators could sign up to give a design object or two—whether it was artfully-assembled jewelry, a handcrafted lamp, or detail-oriented desk. The idea was that they'd take the handful of objects and offer a chance for Instagram users to win them in exchange for monetary donations. Within seconds, an avalanche of high-profile names and their haute offerings populated the previously blank rows. “Seeing the sheet fill up so quickly was very humbling for us. We felt a huge amount of solidarity,” Nguyen says.
The final result? #DesignForATL, an Instagram raffle that starts, well, now. Users can browse a selection of high-end goods on the @designforatl account. To “buy” tickets for them, they must donate to the Asian Americans Advance Justice’s Atlanta chapter, a civil rights group that's raising money for the hate-crime victims and their families.
As of this writing, #DesignforATL has works from over 80 designers, including a lamp from Eny Lee Parker, a fringed Eos mirror from Ben and Anja Bloc, a Herman Miller Noguchi table, a wool blanket from Studio Proba, a Gaetano Pesce glass tray from Coming Soon, and a pond vase from Debbie Carlo. (Just to name a few.)
Want to participate? Here’s how it works:Follow @designforatl on Instagram.Look through their posts to pick your favorite product—whether it's Leibal's CAC Studio wallet, or a Dusen Dusen duvet.Click their link-in-bio to get to the donation page.When picking how much money to donate, look at the object’s raffle ticket price in the Instagram caption. (Most are 10 dollars, however, a select few are over.) Then, select the donation amount that matches (or more, if you wish).Most importantly: after you fill out the required sections (monetary amount, address, credit card info, etc.) enter your corresponding item’s hashtag in the notes field. Similar to the listing amount, you can also find that hashtag in the Instagram post’s caption. (For example, this writer bought a raffle ticket for the Eny Lee Parker lamp by going to its Instagram post, which had in its caption #DesignForATLEnyLeeParker. Then, when going back to the donation page, she entered #DesignForATLEnyLeeParker into the notes section.
You can buy raffle tickets for separate objects. However, you need to make separation donations, and fill out separate forms, for each.The women behind #DesignForATL: Arati Rao, Jenny Nguyen, and Jean Lee. (Rao and Nguyen spearheaded the project with additional support from Lee.)Photo: Courtesy of #DesignATL.
The goal is, first and foremost, to raise funds for those directly impacted by these heinous attacks. However, Rao, Lee, and Nguyen also see #DesignforATL as a chance to highlight some of their favorite creators. ”So many of them are AAPI, BIPOC and small design-led businesses who we feel deserve more attention,” Nguyen says.
Instagram activism often gets a bad rap; a way to appear like you are doing work without, well, doing much work. But IRL fundraising events are impossible due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Add in a sense of urgency—booking a venue and sending out invitations take time, whereas these communities are hurting right now—and social media events like #DesignforATL are apropos for this acute moment, spreading the word and raising the money, safely and quickly. “We pulled it off in a matter of days in between protesting,” notes Nguyen.
Up next for the trio? Planning another Instagram campaign for the AAPI cause. “More on that soon,” she adds.