Meet Margo Manhattan – The Designer Behind the AIDS Lapel Pin

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

It’s the symbol most closely identified with AIDS – the folded over red ribbon.  In 1991, Jewelry designer Margo Manhattan for AmFAR created the ubiquitous design, most often worn on lapels.

Ms. Manhattan says she was inspired by a simple concept.

“The song ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon’ gave me the idea. It was a simple symbol that would be recognizable and a fundraising tool,” she told SFGN.

She never imagined how the design would take off like wildfire. Thirty years ago, when AIDS-phobia was at its height, red ribbons began sprouting from lapels, gowns, hat brims, jackets, blouses and anything else that could take a safety pin.

It didn’t hurt that some of the biggest names in the world wore the symbol proudly.  That list includes Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Elton John and Paul Newman.

Over the next few years, the ribbons became part of the dress code for celebrities at every A-list red carpet event.

“It became an international symbol and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for AIDS research awareness and to now find a cure!” Manhattan said.

This December first, the ribbons will be worn around the world as part of World AIDS Day.  Even thirty-two years later, seeing the pin worn on December 1, fills Manhattan with pride.

“I'm so happy to have made a difference. I met a young man right after I created the pin and to this day he calls me and cries at how grateful he is to be living with HIV and be alive. I'm so grateful I was able to make such a difference in his life and others. Some friends I had weren't so fortunate and never made it,” she said.

These days, Margo Manhattan is focused on her boutique in New York City.  “I'm designing fabulous sculptured rings, charm Lariats that wrap up in different ways with pendants you can interchange.”

Looking ahead to the future, she wants to open more stores.

To find out more about Manhattan and her jewelry designs go to

Like us on Facebook

  • Latest Comments