Not Just a Label—Emanuele Della Valle’s Charitable Project, Soon Forward, Is Helping New York’s Homeless

The window displays at 129 Lafayette Street, at the crossroads of Soho, NoLIta, and Chinatown, aren’t advertising the big summer sales that its neighbors are. Instead, a sign reads: “How Are You Changing New York?”

The storefront has been commandeered by Soon Forward, a charitable program founded by neighborhood resident Emanuele Della Valle to help the homeless and the struggling local shops of zip code 10013. Since its launch in 2019, Soon Forward and its network of volunteers have given 100,000 meals to the Bowery Mission and donated 100 Sheltersuits to the area’s unhoused residents. More broadly, its website explains, the plan is to “build partnerships between local non-profits, individuals, and corporations to incite change.”

This weekend at the Lafayette Street pop-up—he likes to call it “a digital Barneys of charity”—Della Valle will be talking up Soon Forward’s latest initiative. Shield is an exhibition of capes created for the homeless by the Italian fashion designer Moreno Ferrari. “Our dream,” Della Valle says, “is for a bunch of Italian brands—the premier luxury goods makers—to put together money for Moreno to go to Italian factories and get the capes made.” Not unlike the Sheltersuits that Soon Forward distributed last year, the capes are designed to withstand the elements. A reversible bottom layer features multiple pockets, built-in lumbar support and an anatomical hood, and high-tech thermal padding for warmth, and the second layer vest is cut in a reflective rainproof fabric.