“Life starts at 50,” said Brian Beitler, chief marketing officer of J.Jill, at the Each for Equal conversation at The Marmara Park Avenue Thursday night, in a revelatory tone.
Even despite that important lead, the night brought together women of varying ages and stages of their careers to hear from the panelists, which included “SNL” producer, Lindsay Shookus; senior program director, Hearst Foundations and Cosmopolitan alum, Donna Kalajian Lagani; former vice president of Goldman Sachs, and entrepreneur; Rebecca Allen; and speaking coach Precious Williams.
It was in the spotlight of J.Jill’s partnership with the 1999-founded nonprofit Bottomless Closet for two years now, donating over $40,000 through its Compassion Fund. Since inception, the fund has given more than $18 million in grants and donations to 100-plus organizations in the U.S.
Beitler described their customer in so many words: “she is passionate, she is humble and she is driven.” The Compassion Fund is service to aligning with those customer values.
Last year, Bottomless Closet served more than 3,500 New York City women and held thousands of client interactions, which includes workwear outfitting, pitch development and LinkedIn profile grooming, among other services to help women land a full-time job.
“As women, we lean into martyrdom,” said Shookus, adding: “I don’t give it up anymore.”
Despite facing institutional barriers, women can have it all, but low-income women often take on additional burdens. Aside from battling homelessness, single parenting, domestic violence, newfound routine after former incarceration or alcoholism, low-income women that Bottomless Closet reaches today deal with a deeper stigma — shame.
“Your perceived flaws are truly your secret weapons,” said Williams, during the panel.
But a befitting professional wardrobe lends to that confidence, so these women can get a fresh start and support themselves financially.
Designers such as Carolina Herrera and Christian Siriano both have donated selflessly to Bottomless Closet, often brand new items, which as Melissa Norden, executive director of Bottomless Closet explained can be put up for resale on sites such as The RealReal to help fund gaps in sizing in their assortment.
Speaking on the added environmental benefits in donating clothing, Norden, said the reduced stigma in secondhand has done nothing but help their cause: “Another way of recycling is by giving it and paying it forward to someone else. Their clothes are helping someone who really needs the clothes.”
With corporate partners being national and local in scope, needs are better targeted to each community so more women, regardless of age, size or circumstance — are served.