N: Philanthropy isn’t your typical contemporary fashion brand. For one thing, its founder and chief executive officer, Yvonne Niami, got into the business through an unusual back door — real estate development.
Niami has nothing against building homes — especially when they’re luxury dwellings in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Malibu and Santa Monica — but the urge to launch a fashion business was hard to suppress.
The other thing that makes N: Philanthropy unusual is the company’s commitment to turn over 10 percent of sales to charity, as its name implies. Niami’s beneficiaries of choice are the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and SPCALA.
N: Philanthropy specializes in updated essentials, faux furs, vegan leathers and deconstructed sweaters. The clothing is designed for comfort and wearability and blurs the lines between work and weekend. One of the key fabrics is Cupro, which is similar to raw silk, used for dresses and pants. Garments feature hand distressing, raw edges and cutout details “that give our girl permission to get a little wild,” Niami said.
The two-and-a-half-year-old brand expects to do $15 million in sales in 2017. It grew 300 percent in past year. N: Philanthropy is distributed to 110 boutiques and was picked up by Bloomingdale’s for fall.
“What first attracted Bloomingdale’s to the brand is the product design and their take on the destructed trend,” said Liz Jones, vice president and division merchandise manager of women’s contemporary at Bloomingdale’s. “They’ve successfully reinvented classic silhouettes with a modern edge. In addition, their commitment to giving back is truly inspiring and allows the consumer to feel great about her purchase.
“N: Philanthropy fits into our contemporary casual assortment sitting alongside brands like Sundry, Monrow and Wilt and Rails,” Jones added.
“Everyone has been so positive about what we’re doing,” Niami said. “The people that gravitate to the brand love what we’re doing. Our customer is 25 to 45 years old, she’s definitely an edgy, cool girl. She likes to do yoga and is a fun girl, but she has a conscience, she has a heart.”
Most items are priced less than $300. Fringed mini and above-the-knee skirts are $158 each, a roll-neck dress with front knot detail and high slit made of Japanese Cupro, $298, and a faux-fur cropped jacket printed to look like feathers, $188.
Niami got involved with pediatric cancer 12 years ago. “A friend who is a nurse in the ward invited me to events at the hospital. I started seeing what’s going on,” she said. “There’s a lot of research that needs to be done. I saw what the parents and families go through, and thought, ‘I have to do something about it.’ Everybody has to do something about it. I love the fact that everyone can feel like they’re being philanthropic themselves when they buy N: Philanthropy.”
Niami’s other Cri de Coeur is animal cruelty.
Niami was realistic enough to know she needed help and hired a full-time designer. “We sit and tweak the designs and make them better,” she said. “The designer and I come up with the initial designs. We say this is the idea for the next collection.”
Niami said handbags and shoes are the next product category N: Philanthropy will tackle. The brand early next year will launch a skin-care line. “I’m a big believer in face oils,” she said, adding that she worked with a chemist to create the collection, which will consist of four products: a face oil, moisturizer, cleanser and face mist. It won’t be tested on animals.
Opening physical stores is also in the plan. Niami said she’d like to open a store in Los Angeles and one in New York in early 2017.
Bloomingdale’s, which is featuring N: Philanthropy in its catalogue and e-mail blasts, will give the brand a boost. “They’re helping to promote the brand,” Niami said.