February 28, 2018

Philanthropy House hosts 'My Identity, My Freedom, Expressing Culture Through Fashion' exhibition

ERSTE Foundation, The European Foundation Centre (EFC) and the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) launched the ROMANI exhibition on 6 March at 16:30 in the galleria of Philanthropy House (Rue Royale 94, 1000 Brussels).

Fashion Show

The event gave insights from Erika Varga, ROMANI founder, on the role of women in social entrepreneurship and her experience with building the ROMANI brand in the last years. The MEP, Livia Jaroke, and the first Romani woman to be elected Vice President of the European Parliament gave a speech. Also, Alina Serban, Project Manager Social Development at ERSTE Foundation, provided more details about EVPA member ERSTE Foundation’s work in Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe.

ROMANI, created by sisters Erika Varga and Helena Varga, is the first Roma studio with the aim of raising awareness about the culture and heritage of both Hungarian and Roma cultures within the fashion community.

ROMANI is instrumental in giving a voice to Roma culture by reinterpreting traditional Roma patterns with a modern urban touch.

Erika Varga gave the context for ROMANI’s vision, explaining that it “was founded to promote Roma culture to the mainstream and support the integration of the Roma community in Hungary, with the lifetime dream of changing people’s perceptions”.

The social enterprise also serves the Roma society directly by employing disadvantaged Roma women, organising workshops and hosting events to discuss Roma identity, heritage and culture. For the past five years, ROMANI has been supported by ERSTE Foundation (an EFC and EVPA member), as part of the programme ERSTE Foundation Roma Parternship. The partnership was created to support local initiatives promoting  integration of Roma people in Central and Eastern Europe.

About ERSTE Foundation

ERSTE Foundation is a creative workshop for ideas and innovation, a lab for topics of the future which increases its effectiveness through the strategic cooperation with networks. As main shareholder of Erste Group ERSTE Foundation secures the independent future of one of the largest financial services providers in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. As a private Austrian savings banks foundation, the foundation is committed to serve the common good. We invest parts of our dividends into the region in which Erste Group operates. Our goals are to strengthen civil society, foster the inclusion of socially disadvantaged groups and promote contemporary culture in Europe.

About The European Foundation Centre

The European Foundation Centre (EFC) is the platform of institutional philanthropy with a focus on Europe, but also with an eye to the global philanthropic landscape. It is a network of foundations and philanthropic institutions committed to the development and promotion of institutional philanthropy in Europe and globally.

With the aim of being the voice of institutional philanthropy in Europe, the EFC promotes and communicates the value of institutional philanthropy to society thus contributing to an environment in which philanthropy can flourish. It serves as a hub of sector exchange and intelligence, to help its members increase the impact of their added value in society.

About EVPA

The European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) is a lively network of organisations sharing the same vision and a common goal: creating positive social impact through venture philanthropy and social investment (VP/SI). Its mission is to enable VP/SI organisations to maximise social impact through increased resources, collaboration and expertise.

Currently, EVPA has over 230 members, mainly based in Europe, showing the sector is rapidly evolving across borders. Its membership covers a full range of venture philanthropy and social investment activities including venture philanthropy funds, social investors, grant-making foundations, impact investing funds, private equity firms, professional service firms, philanthropy advisers, banks and business schools.


ROMANI was established as the first Roma fashion studio using fashion and design to create bridges between Roma and non-Roma people. Founded by Erika Varga and her sister Helena, the aim is to break stereotypes and popularise Roma culture and community by reinterpreting the traditional patterns in a modern urban-wear way, and using fashion to give a voice to Roma culture. In addition, it looks to serve the cultural and economic needs of Roma society by creating employment for disadvantaged Roma, and organising workshops for them to discuss Roma identity, heritage and culture.

 Contact details:

Ioana Traista, EVPA Communications Manager


+32 476 06 40 47

Catherine Lennon, EFC Communications Director



Romani Design Final Edit 4

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