Philanthropy has been an integral part of Lafayette 148’s DNA for years.
The sportswear company started the School of Dreams, a nonprofit facility, in Shantou, China, nine years ago. The town is a familiar one to Lafayette cofounder Shun Yen Siu, who grew up there. He realized that many of the children of area migrant workers had no opportunities to go to a public school and decided to help make it a company-wide initiative. With a limited amount of local government funding, the company now covers 90 percent of the overall costs, including teachers’ salaries, uniforms and meals for 340 students from preschool through sixth grade. To get shoppers involved, the company has raised about $160,000 by selling priority access to its semiannual sample sales in the past two years. Employees, business partners and friends have helped to defray those costs over the years. Aiming for “a balanced development of character, mind and body,” the school offers music, dance and gymnastics in addition to the national curriculum.
Back in New York, where the company has its headquarters, Lafayette 148 also supports the Fashion Institute of Technology. Cofounder Deirdre Quinn has served on the school’s board since 2010, and is an active member of its Strategic Planning Committee. She said as part of the company’s commitment to education, it makes an annual donation to FIT that helps cultivate emerging leaders who will ultimately impact the fashion landscape. This summer, 19 FIT students served in paid internships at the company.
Supporting education is a pillar to her business, and Quinn said giving back to the communities where Lafayette 148 staffers work and live is a key part of its strategy.
“Education is just a really important part of what this company is about, and giving back is a number-one priority,” Quinn said.
Each year, about 180 staffers travel to New York and China. Visits to the latter often start at the School of Dreams before going on to the factory. “We take education seriously,” Quinn said. “We do this so our employees can learn more than their jobs.”
On a more personal level, Quinn is committed to raising awareness for breast cancer research. To that end, she plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro — a 19,340-foot ascent — at the end of September with 17 fellow female climbers, including her sister, to help raise money for Breast Cancer Now, the U.K.’s largest breast cancer research organization. She has been training for the six-day excursion by hiking in the Hudson Valley. “I think it’s a good cause,” she said, “and I know so many people who have had issues [with cancer].”