LOS ANGELES — The route from real estate development to fashion can actually be linear, as was the case for N:Philanthropy founder and chief executive officer Yvonne Niami.
The brand, based out of Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood, started in 2014 and is distributed in more than 450 doors, including boutiques, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Revolve, Carbon38 and Equinox. The company in December launched men’s, recently opened a West Coast showroom in downtown L.A. to have sales teams on both coasts and launched hair-care products with plans next year to expand that line and open its first store, likely in Manhattan’s SoHo.
The brand, largely known for its contemporary aesthetic applied to comfy T-shirts, joggers in vegan leather and jersey, jumpsuits, sweatshirts and other basics, gives back 10 percent of net proceeds to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — hence the impetus for the label’s name. Its rise has also been aided by celebrities — such as Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Selena Gomez, Kate Hudson, Ashley Graham and Zendaya, among others — spotted sporting the label.
The company started with three employees and is up to 12. It remains privately held, funded entirely by Niami, who maintains a 100 percent stake in the business.
The ceo, prior to starting N:Philanthropy, developed residential homes in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood, Santa Monica and other parts of the greater Los Angeles area. Her focus was mainly around the interior design of those homes, a skill set transferable to what she’s done in building her apparel brand.
“It was just like a house, Niami,” said of starting N:Philanthropy. “You start it from the ground up like most of the homes I did. From the very beginning, there was nothing there. With a brand, it’s the same thing. You really have to start it from scratch and no one knows about it. You hope you get a consumer that likes it and wants to keep buying it.”
Her love for fashion came from an uncle, who spent 30 years in the business working at companies such as J Brand. It was through her uncle that Niami was exposed to the industry.
“I have always loved fashion. It’s just been a part of me since I was a little girl and I always, since I was an adult, was philanthropic,” she said. “So I just really wanted to meld those two together and create something with an edge, not boho.”
The brand is built around what Niami called bed to bar wear — a collection of pieces comfortable enough to lounge around in at home but smart enough to wear for an evening out with friends, with at least 50 percent of its customers around the 25- to 35-year-old mark. The introduction into men’s as well as dresses, sweaters and even hair was a natural progression into putting forth a fuller brand and collection.
“We don’t mind being known as a T-shirt brand. We love it, but we do want to bring that full collection forward,” she said.
Part of that strategy will be realized in an N:Philanthropy storefront as Niami looks to build brand awareness and the business. The company is scouting lease deals in New York for its first store, expected to be in SoHo, where its showroom is located. New York is also where most of its buyers are and where most of its business is generated, Niami explained.
Women’s is still around 80 percent of the business and, while Niami would like to see men’s grow, she’s realistic based on how the men’s wear lines of similar brands have performed.
The expansion into hair care was an interesting one and began with a desire to enter the beauty sector via skin care, a path Niami said will come with time.
The hair-care line launched with 13 stockkeeping units, including shampoos, hair oils, a beach spray and volumizing spray, along with three hot tools. The next release is due out around the spring and will consist of about 15 sku’s with the addition of two tools in the prototype phase.
“I’ve always been fascinated by it and I just think the whole concept of what N:Philanthropy is lends itself to the beauty world — good product that gives back,” Niami said.