May 25, 2024


Education is everything you need

Inside Crypto’s Takeover of the amfAR Cannes Gala


Last Thursday night, celebrities escaped the preening eyes of Cannes beachgoers for a much more secluded evening. Tucked into the coast of Cap D’Antibes, the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc once again welcomed European elites, Cannes festival attendees, and a hefty sprinkling of models for an evening of glamour, celebration, and giving back at amfAR’s annual Gala Cannes. The film festival’s glamorous setting has proven to be the perfect pairing for amfAR’s gala and, over the years, the event has raised over $245 million for the organization’s AIDS research programs. Per usual, amfAR was supported by its usual luxury sponsors, like Chopard, which donated diamond earrings weighing a total of 45.62 karats for the evening’s auction. But it was a new sponsor that added a bit of modernity to this decades-old event. This year, the Cannes Gala’s lead partner was FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange founded by 30-year-old wunderkind, Sam Bankman-Fried. The immediate effects of a crypto company sponsor at the gala were obvious. Guests had the option to purchase tickets, tables, and auction lots with cryptocurrency, as representatives of the crypto set rubbed elbows with the top models and actors meandering around the gala’s tent. But the long-term impact of such a partnership on the future of the crypto industry was likely immeasurable.

This push for crypto to enter the popular culture, fashion, and high art realms has been one of FTX’s goals for a while now. It makes sense, then, that earlier this year, Bankman-Fried brought on model-turned-businesswoman, Lauren Remington Platt as the head of fashion and luxury partnerships. During her short tenure, Remington Platt has helped launch the company’s first luxury print campaign starring Gisele Bündchen (she and husband Tom Brady both own an equity stake in FTX), and brought some crypto representation to the Met Gala, walking the red carpet wearing a diamond necklace that would show up again at the Cannes event.

Naomi Campbell, in Schiaparelli, in the gala’s tent.

Gisela Schober/Getty Images for amfAR

“This is a demographic that doesn’t necessarily know about Sam or FTX,” Remington Platt told W of the gala guests. “But it’s a group that’s ripe for disruption. You can see the energy around philanthropy, around NFTs, and around art and creation.”

FTX’s interest in philanthropy is nothing new. Bankman-Fried has positioned himself as something of a Robin Hood in crypto, spouting the idea of “effective altruism,” which uses scientific reasoning to determine how to do the most good for the most people. Bankman-Fried first learned of the idea while he was a junior at MIT. According to Bloomberg, that’s when he met Will MacAskill, a doctoral student at Oxford who worked with mathematic calculations to determine “how individuals could do the most good with their money and time.” The two talked over lunch about the idea of “earning to give,” with MacAskill suggesting Bankman-Fried take a high-paying finance job in order to make more money to donate to charity. After graduating, Bankman-Fried took a job at a trading firm in New York where he reportedly gave away half his six-figure salary during his three years there. Since then, Bankman Fried left the firm to start FTX—and his donations have increased substantially. “Sam will be giving up to one billion dollars this year alone to high-impact causes that are benefiting society,” Remington Platt said. Hence, the company’s support of amfAR.

Coco Rocha, Alina Baikova, Lauren Remington Platt, and Vanessa Hudgens at FTX’s table at the gala.

Pascal Le Segretain/amfAR/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

FTX’s involvement in the gala, of course, has the added bonus of getting their name in front of a whole lot of wealthy, powerful, and influential people. But while his company’s logo was projected throughout the tent, Bankman-Fried himself was nowhere to be found (he was in Washington, participating in a roundtable for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission). That left Remington Platt as the face of FTX for the night, a role she slipped into nicely. While she no longer wore FTX’s diamond necklace (that honor was given to Pose star Indya Moore for the evening), she still stood out in a turquoise Giambattista Valli dress, floating around the tent as she mingled with guests. She didn’t have to go very far, however, as the FTX table itself was filled with some of the evening’s biggest stars, including crypto-enthusiast Coco Rocha.

Rocha first got into crypto currency along with her husband, artist and “forward thinker,” James Conran. The two are now investors and advisors for two different platforms, P00ls and FLYP, which connect the world of crypto with art, artists, and fashion. “We’re at this time in fashion where the ones that get it, get it—or, at least, are trying to get it,” Rocha said. “I don’t expect everyone to understand it, but this is where we are heading. Maybe at the moment it seems gimmicky or silly, but I truly believe this is necessary.”

Rocha, in Iris van Herpen, on the gala’s red carpet.

Gareth Cattermole/amfAR/Getty Images for amfAR

It’s possible Rocha is referring to some of her fellow gala guests. Despite FTX’s involvement in the event, a large chunk of the attendees were inarguably there to support amfAR’s fight against AIDS. While Indya Moore was a bit of a representative for FTX, wearing the brand’s diamond necklace throughout the night and presenting it on stage for the auction (where it was purchased for $133,000), they admitted they don’t know much about crypto. “I haven’t had an introduction to it that has inspired me outside of this one,” they said. “But after this experience, I’m incredibly impressed by its potential.”

For Moore, the night was less about the sponsor and more about amfAR itself. “AIDS and HIV have deeply affected my community in profound ways,” they said. “However, I’m so hopeful because of events like this, where people are inspired to use their power and resources to empower those living with this disease. It falls completely in line with what I use the visibility of my artistry for.”

Moore, wearing Mônot, showing off the FTX diamond necklace during the live auction.

Clint Spalding/amfAR/Getty Images for amfAR

But it can be easy to forget the true nature of the event, especially as you watch the likes of Christina Aguilera performing on stage and Naomi Campbell chatting animatedly with Eva Longoria. Of course, some were likely in attendance just to enjoy the glitz of the evening, to dress up in gorgeous gowns, and rub elbows with the models and stars of the moment. Those who came for a fashion show enjoyed not only an actual show curated by Carine Roitfeld, but the hundreds of looks sitting throughout the gala’s tent. The theme of the night seemed to be crystals and cutouts, with almost every guest’s look representing one of the two. New York-based Mônot, with its signature skin-bearing designs, was heavily represented, with Moore, Longoria, Nina Dobrev, Cara Delevingne, and more attendees wearing the brand, which has gained popularity in recent years thanks to its popularity among celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Megan Thee Stallion.

Lionel Hahn/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images
Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Lionel Hahn/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The crystal contingent was led by Vanessa Hudgens in custom Miu Miu, with Joan Smalls and Georgia Fowler following suit in Dundas and Zuhair Murad, respectively. Model Larsen Thompson added a bit of romanticism to the sequined group in a tiered Armani Privé gown that turned her into a mermaid for the evening.

Lionel Hahn/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Clint Spalding/amfAR/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images
Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The result of this night, filled to the brim with crypto, philanthropy, and a whole lot of glamour, is likely exactly what Bankman-Fried had in mind when he hired Remington Platt and agreed to sponsor the event. It placed crypto in a setting where it would normally not be brought up, bolstered by Jeff Koons’s surprise entry into the auction—his first-ever NFT, which sold for over $2.2 million. While out in the world, crypto might be struggling at the moment along with the traditional market, within the walls of the amfAR tent, FTX was the star of the show.


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