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Geoffrey Beene Gives Back: Philanthropic Brand Debuts Fall Campaign With SNL Star Colin Jost

Aug 05, 2015 01:45 PM EDT
Geoffrey Beene
(Photo : Courtesy/Geoffrey Beene)

When you think of Geoffrey Beene, designer dress shirts and neckties probably come to mind.

But there's so much more to the brand than menswear clothing and accessories — a point the Geoffrey Beene team is trying to make with its fall/winter 2015 advertising campaign. The campaign, which stars Colin Jost, a writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live," aims to make the public more aware of its admirable philanthropic efforts (100 percent of Geoffrey Beene's net proceeds fund the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center).

"We did some research, and it showed there was very little awareness that this is what the company is doing and this is what our brand stands for," Geoffrey Beene CEO Tom Hutton told us.

"We failed miserably at getting that message out there. Hopefully Colin can do a better job at that than we have been doing," he added.

Although Geoffrey Beene supports a slew of charities and causes — from Alzheimer's research and the protection of women and children to education — its main focus is on cancer research.

In 2000, Geoffrey Beene's founder, who the company was named after, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and told he had six months to live. He ended up surviving four years longer than expected, but during that time, Hutton, the executor of his estate, witnessed Beene struggle with his illness and grow frustrated with the limited treatment options for cancer patients.

"He continued to design and do the things he loved to do, but during that period, he did have bouts where he got very sick. I would visit with him in the hospital, and he would really express his frustration about how we could send men to the moon and have all these technological advances but cancer, in many respects, we hadn't made a lot of progress with," Hutton told us.

"I told him that if he would allow me, I would try to do something that would make his name as important in the scientific world as it is in the fashion world," he added.

After Beene's death, Hutton set out to make good on that promise, and as a result he partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Together, the two opened the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

"That decision was made by me because I felt it was the right thing to do to carry out what I told Geoffrey Beene I was going to try to accomplish," Hutton said.

Despite the fact that Geoffrey Beene has been donating all its net profits to charity for years, few consumers are aware of this, and until recently, the brand hasn't done much to publicize it.

"We were always a little cautious in trying to promote philanthropy as what our brand does because you don't know what the reception of the public is going to be. We didn't want to exploit it. We wanted our brand and our products to speak for themselves," Hutton said.

"We are a bit handicapped because we don't have the size of budget that our competitors have for marketing. We give our money away, we give it to help people, we don't spend it on advertising," he added. 

But with its latest campaign, which was spearheaded by advertising agency CoolGraySeven, and improvements to its products — more detailing, designs and fabrication options to name a few — Hutton hopes to spread the word about Geoffrey Beene's philanthropic achievements and the legacy of the brand's founder.

"Our message will hopefully resonate with the consumer, and the consumer will hopefully feel good about wearing Geoffrey Beene because it's doing good and represents what is good about what American entrepreneurship is about, which is doing something that's different," he said.

"Geoffrey Beene was someone who was always doing something different. We're continuing that legacy. We're doing something that, as far as we're aware, no one else is doing," Hutton added.

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