#PitchNight Recap Part I: Brands Making an Impact
STORY’s most recent #PitchNight – an open call for designers and makers that gives creatives the opportunity to pitch a physical product to a panel of media and retailers – was another one for the books. On February 16, Peggy Wang, Editorial Director, Buzzfeed, and Chay Costello, Associate Director of Merchandising at The Museum of Modern Art joined us to hear three-minute pitches from brands creating everything from knits made by senior citizens to body butters. But separating this past #PitchNight from all others was our partnership with Buzzfeed’s BuyMeThat – the media company’s affiliate marketing platform. For the first time in STORY history, viewers from all over the world had the unique opportunity to watch our pitchers live at STORY via Facebook Live and purchase “must have” products in real time.
In part one of “the best of #PitchNight,” we’re taking a look at the pitchers whose brands were founded not on a product, but on a cause. This handful of creatives are individuals who want to change cities, impact society, and create brands whose values, beliefs, and demands serve a greater good.
Cause: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
It’s only fitting that a brand dedicated to women’s empowerment and education start with a mother-daughter relationship. Senteurs d’Orient Founder Sarah Akkari found inspiration in her mother, Hanna, whose journey took her from “east to east” as she made handcrafted soaps that fuse the bathing rituals of the Far and Middle East with the Orient’s blossoms and scents. Bringing her own vision to her mother’s creations, Akkari’s believe that “freedom is a form of beauty,” drove the Senteurs d’Orient to establish an all-women team of artisans that create holistic bath oils, soaps, and fragrances.
Driven by the belief that “doing good means feeling good,” the brand is dedicated to educating women in Lebanon so that they can attain new career opportunities, and the company has recently partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to promote gender equality. With soap that celebrates a craft that’s been lovingly passed down for over six thousand years, beauty is always more than skin deep.
Cause: The Planet (in General) and Gorillas (in Particular)
Co-founders Gianluca De Stefano (lovingly referred to as “The Italian”) and Gavin Kamara share two common loves: 1. colorful, bold socks and 2. the environment. Over a bike ride along the Hudson River, the duo’s mission was hatched: find a way to combine a sense of responsibility to support our planet, disadvantaged communities, and the gorilla species with a love for colorful socks. What emerged was bamboo socks made for the concrete jungle.
Their choice to use bamboo fiber was a no-brainer: it’s eco-friendly, it can grow naturally without pesticides, it uses one-third the amount of water compared to cotton, and it’s luxuriously soft. Their bold designs inspire every wearer to channel their inner King Kong, while 10% of the proceeds from each and every pair are dedicated to The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, dedicated to conservation work in saving gorillas and their ecosystems.
Mila & Such, NYC
Cause: Helping Those Fighting Cancer
Co-Founder Mila Sohn was always fond of painting pretty pictures, but when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she and her life partner Joseph Suchta came up with the idea of making something that would transform her oil paintings into something that everyone could wear and feel happy in. As Sohn when through chemotherapy, the duo’s creativity hit new heights as they created a logo, wrote a comic book telling the story of Sohn’s life (including her triumph over breast cancer), created scarves and other accessories, and set out on a mission to forever create new and “happy,” things.
Since the company launched in 2014, they have donated countless scarves to women who are battling cancer, and 5% of each and every purchase goes to the American Cancer Society fund to find a cure for breast cancer.
Cause: Sustainable Fashion
Giving the “lived in” look a new meaning, NOORISM is an upcycled fashion brand focusing on America’s favorite fabric: denim. In 2015, FIT graduate and Brooklynite Zakka Noor was designing for major-label brands including Zac Posen, Tahari, and Ellen Tracy, but she grew increasingly disheartened by the volume of poorly-made, disposable clothes produced by the fashion industry each year. Her frustration ultimately inspired her to launch her own label that’s based on taking apart old jeans and using the pieces to create new items of clothing and accessories.
With an eco-consciousness thats woven into the verb fabric of the business model, the aim is to create high-quality clothing that’s produced in safe working conditions while creating as little waste as possible. Even better? In recognizing that the fashion industry is the second largest consumer and polluter of water, Noorism donates $5 to CHARITY:WATER for every item purchased.