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BoF Celebrates VOICES 2023 With Star-Studded Gala

After three days of inspiring talks, guests closed out BoF’s gathering for big thinkers with a black tie gala followed by an intimate performance from Rita Ora — guest starring Billy Porter.
CHIPPING NORTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Rita Ora, Jolyon Varley, Sarah Chofakian and Ian Hylton attend the BoF VOICES Gala Dinner and Party at Soho Farmhouse on November 30, 2023 in Chipping Norton, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF)
Rita Ora, Jolyon Varley, Sarah Chofakian and Ian Hylton attend the BoF VOICES Gala Dinner and Party at Soho Farmhouse. (Getty Images for BoF)
BoF PROFESSIONAL

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — On Thursday night, guests and speakers glammed up in party attire for drinks and dinner at the VOICES 2023 Gala, using their final evening to connect with old friends and new acquaintances. It culminated in a performance from Rita Ora and Billy Porter — who earlier on stage discussed their struggles to make it in a cutthroat music industry where neither fit the traditional mould — before dancing the night away to a DJ set by musician Lou Hayter.

The evening marked the close of this year’s edition of BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, where executives, founders, creators, activists and catalysts from around the world descended upon Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire for three days of thought-provoking talks and agenda-setting discussions.

Over dinner, guests reflected on this year’s panels, which explored topics from global culture and creativity to climate colonialism and how new technologies can aid the betterment of humanity. From the fashion sphere, designers including Bottega Veneta’s Matthieu Blazy and Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson discussed their approach to creativity; while chief executives Leena Nair and Richard Dickson laid out their visions for Chanel and Gap respectively, in conversation with BoF founder Imran Amed.

“I’ve never really experienced anything like this before,” Ora said about her time at VOICES. “The collection of individuals, they couldn’t be more different, but to be able to connect us all from such different backgrounds, it’s just [an experience] I’ll never forget.”

A theme that ran throughout talks this year was the critical need for compassion and kindness in a world plagued by uncertainty and disruption. Tech entrepreneur Joe Gebbia interviewed filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab Waad, who made a documentary about her life and the birth of her daughter during the violence of the Syrian civil war. Misan Harriman spoke about his experiences photographing the civil rights protests. Author and swimmer Schuyler Bailar explored navigating privilege as a transgender man.

“What I found… was an incredible consistency: a consistency of people who are actually showing their authenticity,” said designer Diane Von Fürstenberg. “We’re not afraid of showing vulnerability.”

Making a positive impact through technology and innovation was another thread many speakers explored. Manu Chopra explained how his company Karya uses artificial intelligence to aid social mobility in rural India, and other speakers, including LVMH chief data officer Anca Marola, made a case for how the technology could be used to enhance creativity.

Aza Raskin spoke about his AI research, which he hopes will allow humans to understand the languages of animals that communicate sonically, like whales, dolphins and birds, while Sammy Basso, a biologist with progeria, discussed his work with scientists to find a cure for the rare genetic disease that manifests as premature ageing.

“I’m so impressed with [the] curation of thought leadership that ranges from fashion to entertainment, creativity, art, science,” Gap’s Dickson said. “It inspires me to be curious, and [think about] how curiosity can really fuel creativity and innovation and motivation.”

This year, VOICES guests hailed from over 30 countries, Amed told the crowd during dinner.

“The opportunity to bring a group of people together and feel all of the energy and connection and shared humanity, vulnerability, openness, honesty that’s really what [VOICES] is all about,” said Amed.

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