A year ago this week, Ally Shapiro (daughter of Jill Zarin, one of the “Real Housewives of New York”) started hand tie-dyeing cloth face masks as a personal outlet; her whimsical and colorful designs quickly gained social media attraction, which led the duo to form the brand Jill & Ally. Since its inception, the importance of giving back has been a core brand pillar — Masks by Jill & Ally donates one mask for every one purchased to health care providers, essential workers and organizations like the Ronald McDonald house.
“In April, we had an opportunity to bring in white cloth masks (which at the time no one needed since it was not recommended). I literally tie-dyed them in my backyard, posted them on my Instagram, and it went viral! We made sure giving back was at the heart of our mission, and for each mask sold one is donated to a frontline worker. We have donated over 50,000 masks to heroes around the country,” Shapiro stated.
Fast-forward a year later, the brand not only has donated more than 50,000 masks, but grown from solely selling hand tie-dyed masks to an offering of mask necklaces and bags, casual tie-dyed apparel (sweatsuits and socks), hand sanitizer, playful beaded bracelets, candles and more. It also has gained celebrity attraction and a loyal following (noted TikTok stars Addison Rae and the D’Amelio family, Arielle Charnas and the women of TV franchises: the “Kardashians,” Bravo’s “The Real Housewives,” “The Bachelorette,” “Selling Sunset,” and more), and grown retail from selling on Zarin’s e-commerce platform to multiple doors. With a product assortment sitting at $130 and below, Jill & Ally is sold at all stores across the TJ Maxx/TJX Cos. chain, Ross Stores Inc., at specialty boutiques and will soon be launching at Saks Off 5th (with exclusively designed masks).
For Mother’s Day, Zarin and Shaprio have launched an exclusive collection of playful pastel candles for $35, as well as candy gift boxes for $45 in collaboration with Nosh NYC (Zarin noted the importance of Jill & Ally continually collaborating with small women-owned businesses).
Speaking to the future, the duo will launch kitschy phone charms, a summer fashion capsule and noted having hired a designer (for future clothing designs) that will sit alongside current Jill & Ally merchandise, Zarin’s home line on the Jill Zarin e-commerce and with retail partners.
“I think definitely still affordable,” Shapiro said of pricing expansion into more categories. “Right now we’re still very casual. We have a few collections coming this summer that are more around camp and tennis/athleticwear. ‘Visiting Day’ is the collection, a campy vibe. It’s not loungewear, but it’s more casual — under $100 for most units except for a rain jacket. Definitely still affordable but in limited quantities.”
Additionally, exclusive Jill & Ally candle and home decor capsules are on the horizon later this year (with retail partners yet to be revealed). While Zarin and Shapiro still have their hands in each process (Shapiro noted she’s continually hand tie-dyeing and personally packing orders) and are producing products both in the U.S. and overseas, they are actively searching for the right partners to scale and expand into more categories.
“We’re looking for licenses now — looking to build the brand in the right way because we can’t do everything and we want to go to the experts,” Zarin said over Zoom. “If somebody wants masks, they should come to us because we can make masks under their name, we’re good at that. But there are areas we want to do but don’t have the expertise, so we want to find the best in class.”