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Buy & Benefit: Designers create items for a worthy cause

April 7th, 2011

During what has become one of Japan’s darkest hours, the fashion industry has come forward to lend a generous hand.

Among the various Good Samaritan acts and continuous relief efforts that have taken place in recent weeks since Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, countless fashion labels have taken the initiative to design products that benefit the country.

From T-shirts to designer bags, the list ranges from affordable to pricey, yet the theme remains the same: help the victims.

For women, designer Tory Burch has designed a T-shirt inspired by the Japanese flag, which shows seven rows of flags and hearts.

The shirt is available on the designer’s website for $29, and 100 percent of the net proceeds of each T-shirt sold through Sept. 15, 2011 will go to the American Red Cross to benefit relief efforts.

Designers such as Anna Sui created a T-shirt with the slogan “We’re all in this together” and Karmaloop.com created a T -shirt for both men and women that states, “The Sun will rise Again.” Both sell for $20.  For both Sui and Karmaloop, 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to The Red Cross.

Senior Kaitryn Snider believes what designers are doing can benefit many in different ways.  “This is an intelligent way [for designers] to use their great influence in the world of fashion to benefit the greater good,” she said. “They merged their passion for design with their compassion for those in desperate need in Japan and it’s a win-win-win situation for the designer, the conscientious consumer, and the needy.”

Polo Ralph Lauren has created a charity polo, available for men and women for $98.  The company paired with United Way worldwide network to create “The Japan Hope” polo shirt (which comes in either black, white or navy), and to donate 100 percent of all proceeds to the humanitarian effort in Japan through the Central Community Chest of Japan.

New England-based leather company Corter has currently raised over $30,000 for The Red Cross Japan with their “Corter for Japan” leather cuff, which is selling for $20 each. Owner of Corter Leather Eric Heins said his motivation to design an item for Japan came from his longtime admiration of Japanese leather smiths.

“Their work got me interested in the craft and I started my little company because getting the things they make over in the states was very time consuming and expensive,” he said. “When I saw the news footage, and heard that a lot of my business friends [in Japan] were being affected, and I knew I could spring to action quickly, so I made a few bracelets in 20 minutes and put them for sale online.”

Heins’ design is a leather bracelet with a hand painted red button to show support for Japan.

“The leather will tan and patina uniquely to each person as they wear it, and the paint will chip away on the button over time as well,” Heins said.

“The band is simple, no branding, and the hope is that by the time the bracelet has no red paint left on the button and is a beautiful dark, worn brown, the country will also be well on its way to healing and resuming normal life.”

Well-known designers Kate Spade and Rebecca Minkoff have used their expertise to create money bags to benefit the countries victims as well.

For $18, Kate Spade’s “Support Japan Tote” features the signature spade logo, a heart, and the red circle from the country’s flag.

Minkoff has created six red bags that range in price from $295-$495 for her Japan Relief collection.  The designer has offered to send every $100 made from the handbags to the American Red Cross.

Other big-name fashion brands such as Brooks Brothers, Coach, Alexander Wang, Forever 21 and American Eagle have contributed thousands of dollars in donations to aid in the effort.

Snider thinks each of these created items shows something about the kindness of the designers.

“This shows their concern for the global community and their own awareness of the great potential they have to make an impact in disaster relief through the use of their unique talents,” she said.