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Echo Design Group’s founders Theresa and Edgar Hyman made philanthropy part of the company’s heritage, and it remains a priority today.
This story first appeared in the September 23, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Whether offering annual scholarships to students bound for top-notch design schools like the Rhode Island School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, or producing scarves for such groups as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the company is committed to contributing to charitable causes.
Founded in 1971, the Echo Foundation initially focused on health-related nonprofit organizations, museums and cultural institutions before evolving to include design schools and scholarships. The company’s private-label business actually stemmed from years of working with nonprofits and developing products for them, according to chief executive officer Steven Roberts, whose grandparents started the company.
At the request of the Smithsonian Institution, Echo’s first effort was a scarf modeled after a neckerchief that had been designed for the 1876 World’s Fair.
“This was to sell in their gift stores, which were just opening then,” Roberts said. “We would work with them closely, going through archives, and created educational and exhibit-related products that helped provide additional sources of income.”
Shortly after the Smithsonian collaboration, Echo was asked by executives at The Metropolitan Museum of Art to develop scarves for the King Tut exhibition.
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Over the years, Echo has partnered with and created products for many nonprofits, including Save the Children, Dress for Success, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In addition, the company provides scholarships to such schools as RISD, FIT, Philadelphia University, Syracuse University and Parsons the New School For Design.
As for how the brand decides on its initiatives, Roberts said, “We meet as a family and connect often with the various institutions we donate to or collaborate with.”
While shoppers may recognize the brand’s philosophy, that is not an incentive, he said.
“Our reasons for doing this are more because we feel it is the right thing to do and we enjoy the associations,” he said. “Increasingly, consumers, as they become aware of our affiliations and efforts, always appreciate our efforts.”
The company’s major charitable efforts have included:
• Save the Children: Produced scarfs and ties in the early Nineties.
• Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Designed scarves for the group in the early Nineties.
• Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Partnered to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a scarf in 2001.
• Ovarian Cancer Research Fund: In 2003, collaborated with Joy Behar to produce a scarf in the spring and with Molly Sims in the fall.
• National Resources Defense Council: Collaborated with Mena Suvari on a three-piece series collaboration in 2007.
• Dress for Success: Partnered to develop a scarf in 2010 and then another one in collaboration with Bobbi Brown in 2011.
• Breast Cancer Research Foundation: Produced a scarf for a BCRF event in May 2012 honoring Evelyn Lauder.
• Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS’ Dining by Design sponsor for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
• Provides annual scholarships to FIT, Parsons, Philadelphia University, RISD and Syracuse University.