By Michelle Mass | January 12, 2017 | People
Fashion influencer and founder of The Wishwall Foundation, Simonetta Lein, tells us about why she started the organization, who inspires her, and why she loves the City of Brotherly Love.
Simonetta Lein was living and working in Italy as an author and fashion guru, when she and her husband decided to pick up and move continents to Philadelphia. Despite being in a new city, Lein focused on her passion in helping others using the support she found here in the City of Brotherly Love to create The Wishwall Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to grant people's meaningful wishes and "pay it forward." As Lein continues to spread the word about her foundation, she's taking it one wish at a time right here in Philadelphia.
We caught up with the multi-hyphenate to chat about her inspirations for The Wishwall, who she looks up to as role models, and what she loves about living in Philly.
Tell me a little bit about why you started The Wishwall Foundation in Philadelphia
SIMONETTA LEIN: I simply fell in love with Philadelphia. We left everything behind and found a beautiful home a couple of houses down from where Grace Kelly grew up. There is so much history all around me, and I was working for great brands, but was missing something that is fundamental to me: giving back. For many reasons, I found Philadelphia to be very open with us, very interested in my first online wish platform, The Wishwall Online. I started to receive more and more wishes, and I decided we needed to become official, and we founded The Wishwall Foundation in September 2015. The Wishwall Foundation has its roots in fashion and art as forms of self-empowerment. By doing this, I would like to pay homage to a woman who has just left us, and inspired me a lot: Franca Sozzani of Vogue Italy. Her vision of a multi-cultured fashion is what I am thriving for.
You've lived in Philadelphia for a little over a year now. How do you unwind after a long day?
SL: I love the fact that where we live is not even 10 minutes from Center City, yet is totally immersed in nature. I work for many hours on my computer and phone, so after a long day, I need to walk and go to the park with my dog. We have unspoiled nature only five minutes away from home, and this is another reason why I chose Philadelphia.
You are constantly inspiring people—is there anyone who inspires you?
SL: My husband, who had to reinvent a life for himself and works very hard every day with a smile; Gaia Ceccaroli, the secretary of The Wishwall Foundation and fellow Millennial, who believed in me and in my ideas so much she has decided to help in bringing The Wishwall to every city; my father and my mother, because they are so far away and I do miss them very much; my tribe on the internet (especially Twitter), where I continually find amazing people who give me so much love and joy. [There's also] Daisaku Ikeda, my mentor, whom I read every day, and who is an inspiration to me because of his unwavering dedication to human rights and his constant efforts to make this planet a better place.
Your Wishwall is now a permanent fixture in Philadelphia. Why did you choose the Italian market area?
SL: I am Italian and we had amazing help from Councilman Mark Squilla! He loved my idea of bringing The Wishwall to Philadelphia, and I expressed I wanted it to happen when Pope Francis was visiting the city. Councilman Squilla opened his neighborhood for us and introduced us to the Italian Market Business Association and its president, Michele Gambino. They embraced our idea and the DiBruno Brothers donated a wall so that we were able to have a permanent home for The Wishwall between South Ninth Street and Montrose Street. It has become a tourist attraction—people even take selfies in front of it! We are becoming a respected international foundation with many wonderful accomplished projects because of this city and the people involved.
You are known as The Wishmaker, but what's your wish for 2017?
SL: I already have a deal for a TV show about me as The Wishmaker! I want the television show to be successful and put me in contact with people who want to be involved in helping to make meaningful wishes come true. I want to see The Wishwall Foundation spread to every city. So many people are happy and thankful about the work we do, and when you realize your work can be used for the greater good, you know that your limited time on Earth was totally worth it.
For more information on Simonetta, The Wishwall Foundation, or to post a meaningful wish, visit thewishmaker.us.