Meaningful designs

When it comes to giving back, Carolee New York leads by shining example.

The Stamford-based fashion jewelry wholesaler has a long history of offering designs that raise funds for nonprofit organizations.

Year after year, the purchase of a selection of the company’s necklaces and earrings, pins and bracelets secures not only fashionable accessories, but also helps charitable efforts at home and abroad — from breast cancer to clean water to helping those whose lives have been disrupted by natural disaster or domestic violence.

And these charity partnerships are integral to the mission of the company founded in Greenwich in 1972 by jewelry designer Carolee Friedlander.

Karen O’Brien, Carolee’s vice president of marketing, offered WAG some comments recently, giving insight into these efforts.

“They’re fundamental,” O’Brien says. “Part of our mission statement reads: ‘Share the success of our company by partnering with charitable causes.’”

And it’s been that way for a very long time.

“Over the years Carolee has developed programs with charities including the Susan G. Komen foundation (Race for the Cure), Wildlife Conservation International (Save the Elephant), VH1 Save the Music, Literacy Partners, AmeriCares, and now, with and Stand Up To Cancer,” she says. “Through product donations Carolee has also supported many charities large and small to help them fund-raise, including the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), St. Jude Children’s (Research) Hospital, Kidsave and The American Heart Association, plus local chapters and schools everywhere.”

Friedlander sold the company to The Brooks Brothers Group in 2001, but the good work has continued.

Today, with a Fifth Avenue showroom in Manhattan and state-of-the-art headquarters and a 40,000-square-foot distribution center in Connecticut, the company offers classic, modern and trend-driven jewelry featuring fashion pearls, crystal, glass and semiprecious stones. The designs are sold in major department and specialty stores in more than 40 countries and online, while Carolee also designs and distributes licensed jewelry for fashion brands, including Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Chaps, ABS by Allen Schwartz, French Connection, Trina Turk and Brooks Brothers.

The charitable work, O’Brien says, is both integral and well-considered. The organizations’ work, for example, must affect the lives of Carolee customers and employees, she says, and the groups must operate at the “highest level of effectiveness and integrity.” In addition, they should be good marketing partners to ensure the collaborations are effective.

Once the partnerships are formed, the process continues in intensity.

“We bring our design team into early discussions with the organizations to learn about their aesthetics — their colors, logos, symbols, etc. — and what they are trying to communicate through them,” O’Brien says. “Our designers then go to work making sketches that interpret the organization’s own visual ideas into beautiful and marketable jewelry.”

This fall, Carolee is introducing the results of the latest partnerships to join its ongoing efforts.

The Water Drop pendant, which made its debut in mid-September, is inspired by the achievements of Founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, the organization bills itself as doing work that “pioneers innovative, community-driven and market-based solutions to ensure all people have access to safe water and sanitation — giving women hope, children health and communities a future.” Carolee is donating $10 from the sale of each piece ($150) to the organization.

Carolee has also worked with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) since its 1993 inception as a charter fund-raising partner. The Top of the Rock collection, which debuts this month, is all about fashion. Its pieces tap into the fall trends of colors and materials, with faceted gold, topaz and brown glass beads, chocolate and gold glass simulated pearls, white crystal pavé and gold-tone metal designs. Carolee will donate $5 from the sale of each piece — the collection ranges from $30 to $125 — to the BCRF. An ongoing design, the Hope Bangle, also raises funds for the BCRF, with Carolee donating $5 from the sale of each $60 bracelet.

Next month, the Stand Up To Cancer pendant featuring a carnelian charm debuts, with Carolee donating $5 from the sale of each $45 necklace to that organization.

And, to note, the company will continue to donate 60 percent of the sale price of the AmeriCares jewelry collection through the end of the year, supporting its Stamford neighbor’s continuing work in Nepal.

Across the board, Carolee’s efforts have had an effect.

“We know that through donations raised by product sales, product donations and marketing efforts Carolee has provided, we have helped raise millions of dollars for charities,” O’Brien says. “For a relatively small company like ours, we think that’s a big achievement, and it makes us very proud.”

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