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Buy that buttery soft tee and give back to L.A. nonprofit groups

Buy that buttery soft tee and give back to L.A. nonprofit groups
Yvonne Niami, founder of Los Angeles-based N:Philanthropy, says she wanted to create a line that felt cool and edgy but had a give-back component. (Tyler William Parker)

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.

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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.

Brands like N:Philanthropy make me proud to be a model and to use my platform to do something for the world.”


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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.

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"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.

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