Each day since early March, Irene Neuwirth has worried about the future of her eponymous jewelry brand, with her 30-member team foremost in her thoughts. The Los Angeles-based designer, a red-carpet favorite among actresses like Sarah Paulson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Rachel Brosnahan, is far from alone in contemplating how the current stay-at-home mandates caused by Covid-19’s spread might impact her business. But Neuwirth is determined to stay positive.
“We were just recovering from Barneys going bankrupt, so to be hit with closing our stores hasn’t been easy,” she admits. “But something like this also forces you to get creative. When I started my business, I used to have this great photographic memory about every single piece our clients bought. So this has allowed me to take a breath and reconnect with clients; we are definitely making that one of our priorities.”
Neuwirth is one of more than 150 jewelry designers and retailers who have stepped up with philanthropic programs designed to meet both global and local needs. Inspired by the Century City boutique her brand opened in October, Paris-based jewelry designer Valerie Messika has designated 20 percent of sales through the end of April at that location—via WhatsApp, email and social-media messaging—to After-School All Stars, the L.A.-based program that offers after-school programs to low-income children. New York-based watch and jewelry retailer Material Good has committed 10 percent of its online sales to the Food Bank for New York City, while L.A.-based designer Jennifer Meyer has earmarked 20 percent of sales via her website and Instagram to Baby2Baby, which raises funds to provide diapers, clothing and other necessities for children, newborn through age 12, living in poverty.
“During these uncertain times, my team and I want to make sure we do everything possible to help those impacted by Covid-19,” explained Meyer, who counts Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington among her clients, in a March 17 Instagram post. “For the past 3 years I have sat on the board of @baby2baby and have seen first-hand how this organization jumps to action in a crisis. Right now, children are in dire need of basic necessities. Parents are out of work, not making a penny, can’t afford to buy items like formula, food or diapers for their children.”
With Covid-19 impacting Italy to a significant degree, larger luxury-focused corporations with Italian brands under their umbrellas were among the earliest adopters of philanthropic programs. In early March Bulgari donated 100,000 euros to the research department of Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, funds earmarked for the purchase of a much-needed 3D microscope. Soon after, Bulgari parent company LVMH announced it would shift into production of hand sanitizer, employing the factories where pricey perfumes for Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain are manufactured. On April 1 Bulgari announced that it, too, was using its Italy-based fragrance factory for production of hand-sanitizing gel, with thousands of bottles expected to be shipped to seven hospitals in Switzerland in the coming weeks.
Kering, which owns Italian houses that include Gucci, Brioni and jeweler Pomellato, has committed 2 million euros to hospitals and healthcare programs in four Italian regions significantly impacted by the outbreak: Lombardy, Tuscany, Veneto and Lazio. Meanwhile, Swiss conglomerate Richemont, which includes Buccellati, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels among its luxury brands, has donated $1.4 million to similar programs.
In early April, three jewelry houses announced donations of $1 million each. Tiffany & Co. committed $750,000 to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and $250,000 to The New York Community Trust’s NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund. That same week, the David Yurman Family Foundation announced a $1 million commitment to coronavirus-related causes, with initial funds earmarked to assist programs in New York, which has experienced more confirmed cases than any other U.S. city. “We sincerely hope this will lessen the impact to our friends and neighbors,” Yurman said in a statement of the donation. In London, the Graff Foundation likewise pledged $1 million to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which supports both patients and frontline workers with care and supplies while also working to develop vaccines, tests and treatments.
Other designers getting involved include Florence-based Carolina Bucci, who is committing 25 percent of online sales through the end of April to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund at Florence’s Careggi Hospital. For parents seeking distractions, Bucci also has launched “Isolate & Create,” a series of pages that can be downloaded and printed, with coloring and origami activities for children and adults alike.
On March 20, Italian jewelry brand Roberto Coin also confirmed it would get involved, with 20 percent of the sales from Coin’s Circle of Life diamond pendants to be donated equally to two programs that focus on ensuring food gets into the hands of those who need it: Meals on Wheels America and No Kid Hungry. The pendants are priced between $640 and $3,700, and the program is exclusive to sales via the Roberto Coin website.
“This is an unprecedented time for all of us, and we must remember those that are most in need,” Peter Webster, president and co-founder of Roberto Coin, tells Robb Report. “Our Circle of Life diamond pendant has always been one of our most popular designs in the United States. [Meals on Wheels America and No Kid Hungry] both do extraordinary work and make a difference every day in people’s lives.”
Based in Washington, D.C., the No Kid Hungry campaign likewise has been pinpointed by a group of independent jewelry brands to raise funds through sales. Using the hashtag #Linked, the joint initiative is the brainchild of IHPR and Danielle Gadi PR, two public-relations agencies that represent a wide range of independent jewelers. Said Gadi and Jen Lowitz of IHPR in a joint statement, “Once we heard the news that school systems were shutting down, we immediately started thinking about ways we could use our roles as connectors between brands to do anything at all to help. We quickly created some artwork and reached out to our clients to participate.”
The program kicked off on March 14 with 40 brands; by early April, #Linked has ballooned to 128 jewelry designers, a list that extends beyond Neuwirth to include Ana Khouri, Anita Ko, Jemma Wynne, Andrea Fohrman, Nak Armstrong and others. Designers involved in #Linked initially committed anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of sales via their individual websites through March 31, with many extending beyond that date as public schools remained closed.
“It is really great to see the jewelry community band together for greater good at a time when we are all feeling helpless at home,” says Emily Satloff, founder and designer of Larkspur & Hawk, which is donating 30 percent of sales through its website and social media to No Kid Hungry. “It is important that individuals, who have the means and social media presence, spread the word about people who need urgent help right now. If our Instagram post results in at least one donation, then we have helped to make a difference toward feeding the nearly 22 million low-income kids from communities across the country who rely on the free and reduced-price meals they receive at school.”
Shalini Kasliwal, CEO of Sanjay Kasliwal of The Gem Palace, the U.S.-based arm of the storied India jeweler, agrees. “Now more than ever, I am so proud to be a part of this jewelry community,” she says, adding that The Gem Palace will donate 30 percent of all sales via Instagram and email for at least two months (the retailer is also currently building an e-commerce site). “It amazes me to see all of my industry colleagues and fellow designers come together and support No Kid Hungry during this time of need. I hope this initiative inspires others to help in any way they can.”
Feeding America is likewise drawing the attention of designers. New York-based jeweler Kwiat is donating 10 percent of proceeds from the sales of select platinum and diamond designs from its Kwiat Star collection to the non-profit organization, which operates a network of food banks, pantries and meal programs that serve roughly 40 million Americans. Through her “Shop for Good” online program, designer Kendra Scott is donating 50 percent of her $40 Everlane bracelets to Feeding America; based in Austin, Texas, Scott is kicking off the program with a donation equivalent to 500,000 meals to Feeding America. Scott also is encouraging clients and fans to host virtual “Kendra Gives Back” programs: Codes are given to organizers that allow them to raise funds through sales, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to the charity of the organizer’s choice.
Neuwirth, who is donating 20 percent of sales through her website and social media, notes that a program like No Kid Hungry is an easy decision. “It won’t be the last program we donate to, but we like that it can have an immediate impact,” she says. “And we see it working – clients really get it and are visiting the site to make a purchase. It’s been both moving and humbling at the same time.”