In an industry that's often being (rightfully) called out for its lack of diversity and body positivity, there stand a few designers who display a humanitarian mission as prominent as the fashion-forward designs they put out season after season. These are the designers who not only want to make their customers feel more beautiful but actually contribute to making this world into what will hopefully one day be a more beautiful place. With philanthropy at the forefront of their brands, they offer something that "one needs" in the hopes of helping someone who is actually in need. Be it working with artisans in developing countries to provide employment or donating to charitable causes through a one-for-one model, these stylish do-gooders are turning the industry on its head, proving to all that fashion has the means to do bring about change and some good for the world should one set their mind to it.
We asked eight upstanding designers, who regularly donate their net proceeds and are involved with charitable organizations throughout the year, why it's important for them to give back and tasked them with picking their favorite gifts that will make a difference this holiday season. Ahead, what they had to say and the unofficial charitable gift guide.
Yvonne Niami, n:Philanthropy
“I love to give back to Pediatric Cancer Research because my best friend Cara, who is a nurse at Children’s Hospital, started inviting me to events at the hospital about 12 years ago. I had my eyes opened to how these children and their families suffer greatly from cancer. I knew I had to help. I made it my mission that any company I ever have will always have a give back component and be philanthropic. This is my way to help others. By opening it up to having an apparel company that gives back, it makes our consumers philanthropic as well. I know that our consumers have their choice of whom they want to buy from, what they want to wear, so it’s an honor and a blessing when they chose to buy n:Philanthropy... not only because the clothes are great, but because our consumer is compassionate and wants to help too. n:Philanthropy gives them that chance to look good and do good. That’s why we like to say it's 'fashion that gives a damn.'”
“My favorite pieces from holiday is a look one of my favorite actresses, Anna Kendrick, wore recently and so graciously posted about us on her Instagram: our Gaia super-soft tee with lace-up detail and our fun Blanca fringe skirt in vegan leather.”
n:Philanthropy donates 10 percent of net proceeds to Children’s Hospital LA, the ASPCA, and other local animal charities.
Blake Mycoski, TOMS
"After traveling to Argentina in 2006, I started TOMS as a small project to get shoes to a small community of Argentinian children. I didn’t set out to start a shoe company; I set out to give shoes to children in need. Instead of starting with the product, we set out to solve a need we saw in the world, and it became the pioneer of a unique business model. Realizing how powerful One for One [model] could be to improve lives, not only through giving shoes but through providing other basic needs, over the last 10 years [has made] TOMS truly become a global giving company. As we grew, we expanded the One for One model, launching new product lines with new gives: Our eyewear helps restore sight to those who can’t see, our coffee provides clean water, and our bag collection supports training and distribution of safe birth kits. With every TOMS product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need."
TOMS, Forged Iron Grey Cable Knit with Shearling Slip, $59, available at TOMS.
"With the TOMS One for One model, for every pair of shoes purchased, a new pair of shoes is given to a child in need. This is only possible through the work of our Giving Partners who are working in the communities that we give in every day. We are committed to giving responsibly and sustainably, and these strong partnerships help achieve that. This Alpargata style shoe is inspired by a traditional Argentinian shoe, which I saw on the trip when I first decided to start this project. It’s a twist on the classic style for winter, as it is cable knit and lined with faux shearling to keep you warm. It’s a great shoe for the holidays because it’s a way to participate and give back by making sure a child in need receives a pair of shoes too."
Rachel Roy, Rachel Roy and RACHEL Rachel Roy
"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about children and the underserved in need. Alone we can't change the entire world, but we can make a huge impact together."
RACHEL Rachel Roy, Wave Basket, $145, available at Rachel Roy.
"This 'wave basket' from my Gifts for Good collection was hand-woven by artisans of the Baba Tree collective in Ghana. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Rescue Foundation which saves girls from sex trafficking in India, and 100 percent of the work provided employment to people that desperately need it. I love the basket, as well as the other Gifts for Good products for the holidays, as there is no greater gift than elegance and graceful love. That is what Gifts For Good are: elegant love."
Lauren Bush Lauren, FEED
"My motivation for giving back came from seeing the devastating effects of hunger firsthand after a stint as a student spokesperson for the World Food Program in college. Meeting children who should be playing, learning, and growing kept from meeting their full potential because of lack of something as basic as a meal both broke my heart and pushed me to do what I could to make a difference. That's where the idea for FEED came from. Every bag we sell has a number on it, which represents the number of meals that purchase provides to children in need. It's so amazing to see our customers bring us one step closer to ending childhood hunger for good every time they wear or give FEED."
FEED, Hand-Painted Eleanor Bag, $325, available at FEED.
"I'm obsessed with this Painted Eleanor Crossbody not just because of its gorgeous design, but also because of its layers of impact. We partnered with local artists to transform some of our most popular styles into wearable works of art, with the intention of getting a conversation started about the power of art to create change. In addition to supporting female artists here in the U.S., each Eleanor provides 75 meals to children around the world when purchased. There are so many stories to tell with this one—I wear it everywhere."
Monica Wise, L*SPACE by Monica Wise
"My mission has always been about making women feel beautiful and confident in their bikinis. Over the years, I began questioning myself with the 'why am I doing this,' and the bigger picture in life. Giving back and helping others in need makes it a much more meaningful purpose than just creating a great bikini.
I was so inspired by the Nena & Co. story. I wanted to collaborate with their brand to support and give back to the Mayan Artisans weavers of Guatemala. Their authentic handcrafted bags are so beautiful as well as ethically and responsibly made. I’ve been very blessed in life, and I’ve always believed that we can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone. What better way than through my business to bring awareness and exposure to lifting others?"
L*SPACE x Nena & Co., Penelope Reversible Tote Bag, $380, available at L*SPACE.
"The weaving and looming of fabrics that make up the bag are vital to the Guatemalan community; it creates a sustainable form of income for these Artisan weavers. By supporting the Nena & Co. cause, it enables us to make a difference in their lives in various ways, whether by providing purified filtered water or a scholarship to help Guatemalans receive a better education. When you visit third world countries, you have to ask yourself, Why am I one of the lucky ones to have so many opportunities and these people don't? The bright contemporary colors of each handmade bag seemed perfect for the holidays in the gift of giving."
Brittany Merrill Underwood, Akola
“For over 12 years, Akola has helped over 5,000 women and children living in urban poverty in Uganda and Dallas. From our raw materials to assembly to distribution, 100 percent is reinvested into our Akola women. I have seen firsthand what happens to women who are empowered—they become agents of transformation and change in their communities."
Akola, Demi Hexagon, $86, available at Akola.
“The Demi Necklace is one of our signature pieces and is perfect for any holiday party while also being a great conversation starter. Every purchase of an Akola necklace is reshaping and redesigning the stories of hundreds of women domestically and internationally by providing economic empowerment, work opportunity, and holistic programs so that they can better care for their children and families.”
Barrett Ward, FASHIONABLE
“When we know the challenges that face far more than half of the humans on this earth, not giving back seems to be inhumane. Our version of giving back at FASHIONABLE is creating jobs for women who have overcome extraordinary challenges, ranging from prostitution to homelessness and addiction.”
FASHIONABLE, Hailu Wallet, $68, available at FASHIONABLE.
"The Hailu Wallet, handcrafted in Ethiopia, supports our partners there who employ women with fair wages and create a safe and dignified place for them to work. The wallet is named after Hailu, one of the heroic women we work with, who is able to live an independent life because of our customers' purchases.
We have found that our consumers love this wallet for themselves, but also to gift to others, because of its versatility and its great price point. The gals on staff tell me you can toss it in your favorite bag or carry it on its own, and I know my wife loves it, so it’s gotta be cool.”
Lynn Roberts, Echo Design
“Echo has been run by our family for over 93 years. We strongly believe that a sense of family is invaluable to the lives of children and young adults.”
Echo Design, Stretch Fleece Cuff Hat, $39, available at Echo Design.
“This year, we are focusing our Share the Warmth campaign on supporting young women transitioning out of foster care. By donating gloves, hats, and mufflers to these deserving young women, we hope to bring some comfort and warmth to them this holiday season. I love the Stretch Fleece Cuff Hat—it’s in my favorite shade of green, festive for the holidays, and warm as can be.”