Whoever has the winning bid on a pair of ceramic greyhound statues April 20 at Christie’s auction house in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza undoubtedly will know their provenance.
Their owner, Hugh de Givenchy, the world-renowned dress designer, adored by his favorite clients including the actress Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had originally given them to Ms. Hepburn.
The auction catalogue quotes Mr. de Givenchy explaining that the dogs were his gift to Ms. Hepburn when she moved into a new house in Switzerland, near Lausanne.
“I decided to give her two white ceramic greyhounds to flank the mantel piece in her living room,” he says. “Audrey loved animals, and dogs in particular. She liked white as well, so the dogs would be white.”
He further explains that following Ms. Hepburn’s death in 1993, her family returned the statues to him in memory of their friendship.
What may be somewhat of a surprise to the new owner is the reason for the proceeds of the sale to be going to a charity in the rural bush of West Africa.
The funds’ destination will be the Kinkeliba Association, which brings medical care particularly to women and young children in the Tambaconda region of eastern Senegal.
Although the black dress designed by Mr. de Givenchy for Ms. Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” brought $467,200 when sold at auction in 2006, the statues of the dogs are valued at the comparatively modest price of $5,000 to $8,000.
Whatever the proceeds, Sadiya Gueye, who is originally from Senegal, is delighted to have the support of Mr. de Givenchy for the charity where she is honored as its “godmother” and “ambassador.”
Ms. Gueye was among the small delegation of Senegalese visitors accompanying Thierno Lo, the minister of tourism, when he came to Atlanta in early March for the official opening of the country’s tourism office in Buckhead.
Ms. Gueye’s ties to highest echelons of haute couture date back to 1987 when she was 25 years old and elected as “Miss Jeune Afrique” by the Jeune Afrique magazine. At the time, she had received a general certificate of secondary education and was working as a computer programmer.
The magazine publicity caught the eye of the French designer Yves Saint Laurent, who soon called Ms. Gueye “the muse” of his next collection. For 10 years hence she ruled the runways of Paris and traveled the world as one of its top fashion models working with all the great designers including Mr. Saint Laurent and Mr. de Givenchy.
In a filmed interview with GlobalAtlanta at the Sandy Springs restaurant La Petite Maison, Ms Gueye said it is difficult to get access to the world of haute couture, and that she assiduously maintains her contacts with its designers. It was news in Senegal when she was photographed at Mr. Saint Laurent’s funeral last year.
Instead of retiring from the fashion world once she gave up runway modeling, Ms. Gueye returned to Senegal and opened a modeling, design and fashion school in Dakar, the country’s capital. It is located in the Complexe Sadiya not far from the Monument of African Renaissance, a statue that is taller than the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower and that is to symbolize a positive future for the continent. The monument is to be dedicated in an elaborate ceremony on April 4.
Like Ms. Hepburn, who at the end of her film career took an intense interest in children around the world, Ms. Gueye has supported the Kinkeliba Association while mentoring young designers and pursuing a career as an entrepreneur as well as a cultural spokesperson for her country.
During the interview, she traced her interest in fashion to the traditional preoccupation of Senegalese women to changing several times in a day.
Senegalese women, she said, whether living in small rural villages or in the cities traditionally would change their clothes following a day’s work and put on the flowing robes and stylish headdresses for which the country is famous.
“Sometimes a woman would change even three times in a given day,” she added.
Today her students are modeling their lives after Ms. Gueye’s by keeping alive Senegal’s preoccupation with fashion and developing the entrepreneurial skills that are necessary to survive in such a competitive business.
Ms. Gueye may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org