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Industry Backs Tsunami Aid Effort

As relief workers rush aid to the victims of last month's devastating tsunami in South Asia, fashion firms have mobilized behind the effort.

NEW YORK — Fashion companies have mobilized behind the effort to rush aid to the victims of last month’s devastating tsunami in South Asia.

The firms are asking employees and customers to do the same by posting links to relief organizations on their Web sites and offering to match donations.

Stephen Lamar, senior vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said the trade group is helping to coordinate contributions of money and goods from its members, though the emphasis seems to be on cash.

The Amazon.com Web site as of late Friday had collected almost $15 million for the American Red Cross through 183,000 contributions from shoppers.

Many apparel companies have operations in the region. Smart Shirts Sri Lanka, a subsidiary of Kellwood Co., managed to avoid the rushing water and acted quickly to bring in food, water and medical supplies. The company’s American Recreation Products division has donated tents, and the Kellwood Foundation is matching employee contributions of as much as $1,000.

“We are donating to AmeriCares,” said Josie Natori, president and chief executive officer of Natori Co. “It’s not an insignificant sum — five figures.”

Carole Hochman, chairman and design director of Carole Hochman Designs, which contracts work in Sri Lanka, said, “Everybody at the company wants to contribute and they are doing it on their own. We’ve…contributed a little under six figures. We work with one factory in Sri Lanka and the factory will handle the donation directly.”

Todd Demakos, ceo of St. Eve International, which manufactures in Bangladesh, said, “We are contributing a considerable sum, as well as 25,000 pairs of underwear for women and children.’’

Liz Claiborne Inc. made a contribution to support Sri Lanka’s governmental emergency response. In addition to an internal fund drive with matching contributions from the Liz Claiborne Foundation, the vendor plans to contribute to the rebuilding effort, mainly in Sri Lanka.

Jones Apparel Group donated to Doctors Without Boarders and is collecting employee contributions, which will go to Mercy Corps. The firm is coordinating with the AAFA to contribute goods.

Designer Kenneth Cole will have a billboard on the West Side Highway here reading, “Wear to Support Tsunami Relief,” suggesting to customers that they make donations at the company’s stores. Kenneth Cole Productions will match contributions of up to $5. The same matching rate is extended to the firm’s employees. The money will go into the Kenneth Cole Relief Fund and then will be donated to Direct Relief International, AmeriCares and Operation USA.

Other companies are offering a percentage of their sales to help with the relief effort. Holt Renfrew will donate 10 percent of its stores sales Saturday to the UNICEF Canada Indian Ocean Earthquake Fund, and White + Warren will contribute half of the proceeds from the firm’s online sales to Oxfam America.

At the upcoming ASR trade show Jan. 14-16 at the San Diego Convention Center, ASR will raise funds by selling black tsunami relief wristbands stating “Band Together” at $5 each to attendees.

SurfAid has received $50,000 from Quiksilver, along with the use of some of its charter boats, a six-figure pledge from Billabong and a commitment from Reef Brazil.

— With contributions from Karyn Monget, New York, and Nola Sarkisian-Miller, Los Angeles