There are more than a few fashion trends that don't age well — scrunchies, leg warmers, low-rise denim.
But Los Angeles native Yvonne Niami has largely built her L.A.-based women's wear brand, N:Philanthropy, around something that gets better with time — raising money for animal welfare and pediatric cancer research.
Philanthropy is built into the brand's DNA and, as part of the process, allows shoppers to wear their hearts on their sleeves — in style.
"I wanted to create a line that felt cool and edgy but still had a give-back component," says Niami. "I love the idea of people in their 20s buying our clothes and knowing that they're giving back."
Niami's intention for N:Philanthropy enables the brand to give money to support two local nonprofit organizations: Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. Ten percent of the brand's net proceeds go to these organizations, yielding $200,000 in 2015 and $325,000 (so far) in 2016.
N:Philanthropy joins other fashion companies that incorporate a philanthropic angle into their business practices.
Ventura-based Patagonia, known for its outdoor clothes, has been donating like this for more than 20 years. (Most recently, it was in the news for donating $10 million from Black Friday sales to nonprofit groups working to protect the environment.) And L.A.-based Toms, which makes shoes, eyewear and other goods, has had a buy-one, give-one model since it started in 2006.
The 2-year-old women's ready-to-wear line N: Philanthropy is known for its dressed-up, funked-up casual wear — a buttery soft tee with studs at the shoulders ($92), sweatpants with a wrap-around belt reminiscent of espadrilles ($128), as well as the kind of going-out pieces that don't look out of place at, say, a school drop-off.
Also, in the mix are a fringed vegan leather skirt ($158) and a red slip dress ($194), which might sound vampy but come across as elevated and easy-going thanks to their sophisticated lines. Selections from the line are available at Planet Blue, Madison, Bloomingdale's and at nphilanthropy.com.
The brand's commitment goes beyond official donations, with Niami working philanthropy into her staff's routine.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, for example, Niami and her team weren't at their downtown headquarters. Instead, they were doing their monthly volunteer work at Children's Hospital.
The charitable intent also influences N:Philanthropy's ad campaigns. The brand cast model Elsa Hosk, a Victoria's Secret Angel, because of her work as an activist for Fair Girls, a Washington, D.C.-based organization devoted to helping survivors of human trafficking.
"Brands like N:Philanthropy make me proud to be a model and to use my platform to do something for the world," Hosk says. "This is the future — brands taking responsibility and giving back."
Hosk isn't alone in her prediction. "We're at the crux of a new world," says Susan McPherson of McPherson Strategies, a consultancy that advises brands on philanthropy, social good and corporate sustainability. "It used to be that companies would write a check or buy a table at a gala. Now, investing in corporate responsibility is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in the market and attract the best employees."
"It's also the right thing to do," she adds.
For N:Philanthropy, it has also been a good move for business.
"The merchandise is great on its own, but the philanthropic aspect is an added bonus," says Brooke Jaffe, operating vice president and fashion director of women's ready-to-wear for Bloomingdale's.
Celebrities have been quick converts. In the past 2 ½ years, photographers have snapped Kylie Jenner, Vanessa Hudgens and Alessandra Ambrosio, among others, in clothes from N:Philanthropy.
Niami, a mother of two, says she and her team sweat the details to make the clothes friendly to a wider variety of shapes, citing perfectly placed straps on a mostly backless top so wearers don't have to skip putting on a bra.
It all makes for a line that feels effortless in its stylishness, and Niami says the only time the brand's mission has interfered with the product has been for a good cause.
"We moved away from black faux furs," says Niami, "Because people kept thinking they were real."
Enter N:Philanthropy's blush-pink faux fur jacket ($220), a socially responsible statement that makes a fashion statement as well.