NEW YORK — To many women who reside in tony brownstones above 64th Street, charity work means little more than attending committee meetings, drumming up money from a few pals and getting photographed at the annual soirée in the sponsor’s finery.
But for Jessica Seinfeld, who with her husband, Jerry, owns not only a duplex on Central Park West but also a sprawling $32 million Amagansett estate complete with a baseball field, benevolence begins with the nonprofit she founded in 2001. In the past five years, Baby Buggy has evolved from a small operation in the Chelsea Market organizing weekend baby equipment drives to a charity that has distributed 1.4 million items to needy families.
Beginning today, Baby Buggy is hosting a two-week drive in the Hamptons, encouraging the well-to-do to donate car seats, strollers and other supplies to local social service centers. Come November, Baby Buggy will also participate in Lucky magazine’s Lucky Shops event. In anticipation, Seinfeld discussed the charity, her three kids and the importance of, as she calls it, “stuff.”
WWD: What’s your goal for Baby Buggy?
Jessica Seinfeld: I’ve never been much of a five-year planner. I wouldn’t say I’m an MBA candidate by any means. But now we get offers all the time to grow and go to London, Los Angeles and Chicago. We’re starting to look at them seriously.
WWD: Is there a moment that you remember as immensely gratifying?
J.S.: This little girl who had never had a skirt just could not believe she now had a skirt. We gave her tights to go with it, because she would have worn the skirt and it was 20 degrees outside. I said, “Absolutely not. She needs some tights.” You know, I used to think, “Oh, it’s just stuff. A lot of organizations do what we do, but they do more social service work and rehabilitation. I don’t have a master’s in social work; I just get stuff to people.” Now I think that stuff changes people’s lives.
WWD: How would you describe your own mothering style?
This story first appeared in the July 31, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
J.S.: I’m pretty strict. I expect good behavior. I’m strict about what they eat. I’m strict about how they speak to people, and I’m strict about their bedtime. I’m strict about everything. They’re so loved, and I think with all these gifts and resources that they have in their life they have to understand the word no.
WWD: So Jerry’s the pushover?
J.S.: He is much more fun than I am and makes them laugh a lot more than I do.
WWD: Do you guys have a summer routine out at the beach?
J.S.: I’m home with the baby, and the kids are on the school bus going to camp every day. My husband’s working on a movie right now, so he’s been away a lot, which is tough, but absolutely understandable. We only go out if we need to support somebody’s nonprofit and it’s really important to them that we show up. But we have dinners here with friends all the time.
WWD: How do you decide which charity events to attend in New York?
J.S.: If it’s important to someone I love. But otherwise I’d much rather support them in other ways. My social life is not sort of wrapped around going to events. My social life involves my really old friends and our friends as couples — who are not people who get photographed.
WWD: But do you still have anxiety over what to wear?
J.S.: I like to wear a lot of things that I have. I have to be honest, I’m not a huge shopper. I don’t buy things that are in the stores or the windows all the time. I don’t get inspired by that. I feel better when I wear something I have, or I wear it in a different way. I’m not one of those people who gets a lot of pleasure out of shopping. I actually feel a lot of guilt when I shop.
WWD: Your husband collects cars. What do you collect?
J.S.: Vintage jewelry — not expensive, like cheap and fun. I don’t even know which brands. It’s all about $100; I don’t spend more than $200 on any piece. I have a source that I will not disclose.