A truly stylish cause: Billy Reid and Into The Streets of Ethiopia team up
Dozens of loyal customers poured into designer Billy Reid’s flagship Houston boutique in the Galleria. Artisanal bourbons were sampled, gourmet chilis were consumed, and stunning pieces from Reid’s spring collection were purchased. But the Thursday night event had an additional purpose: to support locally based charity Into The Streets of Ethiopia.
Kara Portilla founded the organization with her husband in April of 2009, after the couple adopted a young girl from Ethiopia.
“We saw a need — we felt like there was more we could give,” Portilla explains. Into The Streets of Ethiopia provides basic necessities, like baby formula and clothing, to orphanages throughout the nation. It also partnered with other organizations to establish educational programs.
“This is what Billy wants us to do — he wants us to support local businesses and charities,” says Leah Ford of Billy Reid Houston. Ford is a personal friend of Reid’s and has worked with the designer for years. In fact, she’s the third most tenured employee in the company, after Mr. Reid himself and CEO Jake Szczepanski.
Ford and Portilla met through their part-time teaching jobs, and came up with the idea to host the event. Ten percent of all purchases made on Thursday night benefited Into The Streets of Ethiopia. Over 200 people were invited, and some who couldn’t attend made special arrangements with the store to come in the following day and still support the charity.
“It takes $30, the cost of one of our T-shirts, to feed a child for three months,” Portilla explains. She and Ford were both optimistic about the amount of money raised through the event.
It didn’t hurt that Reid’s spring collection is truly fantastic. According to Alex Sandlin, store director, “Billy has really gotten a grasp on what’s popular, and drastically expanded his collection.”
The emphasis for this season is on lightweight fabrics, like linens and textured cottons, which are perfect for hot summers in the South. Reid’s recent success has allowed him to expand his collection, while maintaining the high quality that the brand is known for. The footwear and accessories collections for both men and women have dramatically expanded, but everything is still made in the United States and Italy.
In an era of consumerism and chain stores, it’s refreshing to be able to simultaneously support small businesses, great causes and high quality manufacturing.