With philanthropic efforts ranging from the Fresh Air Fund in the 1970s to AIDS research in the 1980s to more recent partnerships with organizations such as Raphael House, The Center, White Columns, and Heart of Los Angeles, Barneys New York has always been about giving back. Now, with the incorporation of our own charitable arm, the Barneys New York Foundation, we are able to contribute in an even more impactful way, while truly harnessing the power of our community.
“Philanthropy has always been deeply rooted in the Barneys DNA,” says executive vice president of marketing and communications Charlotte Blechman. “Every large initiative we do from holiday collaborations to store openings has a tie to a charitable organization. By adding structure and focus through a foundation, we are able to have the greatest impact.”
Built around three main pillars of giving—human rights, education, and the arts—the Barneys New York Foundation allows us to focus on our core strengths. By championing the arts, we’re able to ensure a future for creative thought, which is the foundation to any artistically motivated organization, while the human rights component continues to build on our advocacy for equality to all. The educational branch allows us to mentor the fashion industry’s next generation of leaders. “Education,” as Blechman says, “is a driving force that will shape the future for all of us.”
Intensive summer programs took place over the past few months, offering five high school and five college students exposure to all aspects of the Barneys New York business and the fashion industry at large in two separate 5-week sessions. “We really wanted students to see the business in a holistic way. Each had one mentor in their main area of focus, but they also spent a week each in every aspect of the company: from IT and Finance to the selling floor at the store. Marketing, digital, merchandising—they were able to get a feel for all aspects of the business.”
Additionally, another key to the Foundation is employee-driven participation, as it is vital when it comes to integrating the organization’s mission with the Barneys New York community. By dividing the company into 23 “houses,” each with its own budget and goals, every employee has a voice in selecting causes important to their department. Not only is this format integral to how the foundation functions, but it exposes every employee to the importance of giving.
“Perhaps there’s an employee who’s never really thought about philanthropy or charitable giving,” Blechman continues. “If we can open someone’s eyes to the importance and they could at some point run a foundation, start a charity, or even just volunteer and find a way to give back to their community on their own, that would be an amazing accomplishment.”