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Fashion Sense: Looking Good with the HRC

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Apr 27, 2015

This is the final installment in W Hotels' Corporate Equality Series. For a closer look at other industries that have scored a perfect 100 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index, click here.

According to CNN, Americans spend an average of $1,740 on apparel each year. They must not be shopping at Manolo Blahnik, where one pair of the famous Spanish designer's shoes could easily eat up half that budget.

Whether you're shopping couture or comfort, there are a few select brands that are not only fashion forward, but also making a big statement in their support of equal rights in the workplace.

Macy's Inc.

With approximately 825 stores (including both Macy's as well as Bloomingdale's), Macy's toppled fiscal sales upwards of $28 billion in 2014. But with big sales comes big responsibility and the omnichannel retailer hasn't compromised its ethical standards just to remain at the top of the retail food chain. Macy's scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's 2015 Corporate Equality Index - one of only two companies in the Apparel, Fashion, Textiles, Department Stores category to achieve such a rating.

Diversity has been one of the brand's strongest pillars. Women represent more than 76 percent of Macy Inc.'s workforce, including more than 66 percent as management-level executives. Stretching beyond brick and mortar locations, the company's Supplier Diversity Program identifies and supports emerging minority- and women-owned businesses. In 2011 the company launched its first business development program called "The Workshop at Macy's." In 2012, five graduates from The Workshop began selling products at select Macy's locations and/or on

Macy's Inc. continues to identify and support underserved communities and the pockets run deep. Through gifts from Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Macy's, Inc. (including the Macy's Foundation), more than $26 million was contributed to nearly 6,000 nonprofit organizations in 2013.

Of these many worthy causes, the brand has identified HIV/AIDS awareness and research, and women's issues - particularly women's health and domestic violence - as part of its core giving strategy. Grants in HIV/AIDS focus area include sponsorship of awareness walks and runs as well as funding for meals and nutrition programs, housing programs, and research and counseling initiatives. In the women's issues focus area, grants support early detection and screening programs for heart disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer; provide a wide range of assistance to emergency shelters; sponsor programs to raise awareness about domestic and dating violence; and funded self-esteem and leadership programs for young girls and teens.

"Our company has accomplished so much, however, it is important to note that we have plenty of opportunity to improve," says Macy's Inc. chairman, president and CEO Terry J. Lundgren. "There really is no finish line is social responsibility."

Levi Strauss & Co.

A solid pair of jeans is the go-to for practically anybody's wardrobe, and Levi Strauss & Co. has been at the forefront since producing the world's first pair of blue jeans in 1873. Founder Levi Strauss was a Bavarian-born immigrant, originally working for his brothers' dry goods company. One of his customers had an idea for pants with rivets, the pair secured a patent, and the company was born. He was also known as one of San Francisco's great philanthropists, providing the funds for 28 scholarships at the University of California, Berkeley, all of which are still in place today.

Over the centuries, the company has established a strong commitment to worker's rights and has extended that ideology on a global scale through its Terms of Engagement, a publication created in 1991 that established a code of conduct for manufacturing suppliers and contract factories.

"Ask an employee what makes this company different, and they'll tell you. It's our values: empathy, originality, integrity and courage," says Levi's president and CEO Chip Bergh. "These guide every decision we make and every action we take."

To Bergh's point, Levi Strauss & Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation has been at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, contributing more than $60 million in grants to HIV/AIDS organizations in more than 40 countries since 1983. The company has also established an employee HIV/AIDS program, which provides access to education and awareness as well as an employee HIV/AIDS benefit plan that covers HIV/AIDS-related costs in countries where private or national health coverage is inadequate. The imitative has been so successful that it received the 2013 Business Action on Health Award.

Levi Strauss & Co. continues to be one of the fashion industry's strongest advocates for LGBT rights. Dating back to 2007, it was the only California business to file an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage and last year issued a rainbow-themed collection celebrating three decades of support.

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Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Style and Travel Editor. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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