By Brian Scott Lipton
“Charity begins at home” goes one of the world’s oldest proverbs, but its meaning has certainly taken on new connotations over the years. Now more than ever—especially among millennial and Gen-Z consumers—it means bringing home and wearing apparel and accessories from stores and companies that “pay it forward,” resulting in sizable donations to a wide variety of worthy organizations.
That concept is not lost on Robin Zubresky, a first-time store owner who opened women’s clothing boutique Riverlane in Essex, Connecticut, in September. She’s already thrown one charity-based event and is planning on many more. “Donating proceeds from sales in my store, as well as teaming up with local entrepreneurs who share these values, just makes me feel good,” she says. “And I think these events are also a great way to attract new customers.”
Stamford-based Hat Attack recently sponsored “A Night Under the Stars,” a sold-out benefit that brought together local business leaders, businesses, dignitaries in support of Person to Person, a charity devoted to creating educated, financially stable, and hunger-free homes in Fairfield County through programs that include three food pantries, grocery home delivery, a clothing center, caseworker assistance, scholarships, mentorships, and more. “We love to support Person to Person, because this cause benefits our direct neighbors in Fairfield County,” says B.J. Gedney, Hat Attack’s co-founder. “It provides the essential items to the people who need it most.”
Another Connecticut-based business that has done so much good for others is 75-year-old Glastonbury-based Baribault Jewlers, which is renowned both locally and nationally for its “Power to B” collection of bracelets with messages of empowerment and whose proceeds are donated to various charities.
“Our family always loved to help people, but our commitment to charity went to a new level when Sandy Hook happened,” says Raeann Baribault, who runs the store alongside her sister Christine. “My siblings and l had just started young families, and we knew we had to do something that would give people hope during this terrible time. We created a faith/hope/charity necklace and gave 100 percent of the proceeds to Sandy Hook Foundation. It sold out immediately.”
In fact, their best-selling “B Strong” bracelet, which benefits breast cancer charities, came about through customer interaction. “One day, one of our customers who was struggling with breast cancer said she was personally committed to raising $1 million,” says Christine.” Then she came to me and said let’s make a ‘B Strong” bracelet. We did a small order and sold it out at one local event. It quickly became our strongest seller on our website.”
Closer to home, Baribault is also a major supporter of the Glastonbury Education Foundation. “We love to support young minds,” notes Raeanne. “And helping local causes is just as important to us as supporting national charities.”
Beyond Connecticut— A Nationwide Trend
Of course, it’s not just local companies that consumers turn to when they want to do good. One of the earliest pioneers in charitable giving is San Francisco-based denim brand Levi’s, which through the Levi Strauss Foundation has worked to advance pioneering social change in the areas of HIV/AIDS research, workers’ right and social justice for 70 years.
Earlier this fall, Levi’s teamed up with Who Decides War for a special five-piece capsule collection, consisting of two trucker jackets and three styles of 501 jeans; all the proceeds were donated to the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, an organization focused on the development of minority leadership in the areas of environmental, social, and economic justice along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor and Gulf Coast Region.
Among the many other companies that have long been in the forefront of charitable giving are Ralph Lauren, who has long supported research for cancer through its popular “Pink Pony” collection; Brooklyn-based retailer Uncommon Goods, which donates $1 of each product sold to a charity of the purchaser’s choice; and Los-Angeles based footwear brand Toms, which first made headlines over 15 years ago by giving away one pair of shoes for each pair that was sold – and now dates one-third of its profit to a variety of worthy causes.
Another footwear brand, Skechers, has made a big difference in animals’ lives through its BOBS from Skechers collection of shoes, apparel and accessories for women. Over the past seven years, Skechers has contributed more than $8.5 million to help over 1.6 million shelter pets, including saving 1.1 million rescued pets in the United States and Canada. “The BOBS from Skechers movement has inspired communities everywhere who love animals—and through this collection, we continue to find new ways to help make a difference,” said Michael Greenberg, president of Skechers. “From growing our BOBS apparel lines to offering low-cost, on-site vaccination services at our adoption events, we’re giving consumers more opportunities to show their love and care for shelter dogs and cats.”
Indeed, you can wear head-to-toe outfits that support charities thanks to the many companies that are committed to helping others. Denim-brand Devil Dog Dungarees, which produces everything from hats to its namesake product, makes a yearly $100,000 contribution to the Wounded Warriors Project; STATE Bags supports American children and families in need, allocating percent of its annual revenue to giving efforts around the country including donating fully-packed backpacks at their signature bag drop rallies and partnering with schools and organizations like HELP USA for special projects; and luxury watch band Oris, which recently created the limited-edition New York Harbor Limited Edition Watch in support of Billion Oyster Project, a pioneering non-profit working to restore New York Harbor’s oyster population by the year 2035.
Furthermore, such brands as Naked Cashmere, Shapermint, Lane Eight and Blenders Eyewear all had special promotions and products on sale in October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Since our inception in 2012. Blenders Eyewear has made a dedicated effort to support different causes such as breast cancer awareness, LGBTQIA+ rights and more by working alongside impactful non-profit organizations that are committed to making long-lasting change,” says Chase Fisher, the company’s CEO & Founder. “We aim to inspire others to live boldly and participate in causes others are passionate about.”
That sentiment is echoed by Matt Altman, CEO and co-founder of the popular lifestyle brand Sportiqe, which allows consumers to choose which charities get donations from their purchases. “When we say that Sportiqe delivers comfort, we want that to be about more than our comfortable apparel,” he says. “That commitment includes helping people who are going through challenging times, whether that be mental health, physical health, education, financial or the environment. Giving back to charity connects us with humanity in knowing we are all in this together in some way, shape or form.”
These companies are among the many that are redefining fashion as a positive social statement—something that is always in style.