Philanthropy and charitable work are not undertakings unfamiliar to Harry Rosen. The brand and the family have given back to the communities that they live and operate in for generations. It’s a point of pride for the iconic menswear retailer that has a longstanding reputation as the go-to destination for Canadian men who want to look and feel their best. And it’s a commitment by the company to help improve the welfare of those around them that continues in full today through its current collaboration with Toronto Raptors President and Giants of Africa (GOA) Co-Founder, Masai Ujiri.
Launched in December 2020, the unique partnership features a seven-piece athleisure collection designed by Ujiri and Canadian designer Patrick Assaraf. Anchored by the theme HUMANITY, the intention of the project is to help promote the ever-important message of equality, inclusivity and the need for greater understanding within our society, and to remind us all that there is more that unites us than divides us. Each piece within the collection includes the word ‘HUMANITY’ in Ujiri’s handwriting, underscoring the need for a collective effort in order to eradicate injustice and to help elevate the standing of those less fortunate and privileged within our communities. And, according to Harry Rosen’s CEO, Larry Rosen, involvement in a project of this nature centered around a campaign with such a strong social narrative is not only an honour, but is also seen by the company as its incumbent responsibility to help amplify and support the message in whatever way it can.
“Masai is an incredible, noble person,” he says. “And Patrick is an immensely talented designer. The fact that Harry Rosen could join forces with these individuals for such an amazing and hugely important cause is exciting for everyone at the company. But it also provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to contribute meaningfully toward making a real difference within communities across the country. Everyone knows about the systemic barriers to accessibility and opportunity that exist within the industry and society as a whole. We want to be a part of affecting positive change that can impact everyone. And this collaboration with Masai and Patrick gives us the platform to try and do just that.”
A Platform for the Underrepresented
In addition to promoting the message of equality and inclusivity through high-quality fashion, the project is also focused on raising funds for charity and introducing new Black designers to the Canadian market. Net proceeds from the sales of the collection, which is available exclusively on HarryRosen.com, is going to Black Youth Helpline, an organization which provides young people with access to culturally relevant, high-quality services and resources in their local community. The much-needed funds help to uphold and improve crisis counselling, strategies aimed at keeping youth in school and provide support for underrepresented families, schools and communities in need. It’s an extremely admirable gesture that’s been made by the retailer and its collaborators, something that’s recognized by Barbara Thompson, Founder & Executive Director of Black Youth Helpline, the campaigns primary benefactor.
“We are incredibly grateful to Masai Ujiri and Harry Rosen for their steadfast commitment to youth from Canada’s underrepresented backgrounds and under-resourced communities,” she says. “Now more than ever, there is a need to support and empower Canada’s disadvantaged youth. This transformative partnership will propel us as we develop and execute new strategies for education, and community well-being in support of keeping Canada’s vulnerable youth on track to successful futures.”
Creating Dialogue Around Social Injustice
It’s a sentiment that’s shared by Ujiri, whose attempts to address the need for unity within our society helped fuel the campaign with Harry Rosen. Ujiri, born and raised in Nigeria, and the first and only African-born President and General Manager of a professional sports franchise in North America, started to use his passions for basketball and humanity to great effect when he Co-Founded the GOA in 2003. The organization, which has grown in effectiveness and prestige in the years since its founding, was developed with the vision to leverage basketball as a means to educate and enrich the lives of African youth – both boys and girls. Ujiri’s passions remain unchanged today, seeing a greater need for unity now than perhaps ever before. And he’s hopeful that the collection developed between he and Assaraf might help strengthen the dialogue around the issues of racial injustice.
“This year we have been consumed by the twin pandemics of COVID and racism. We need to find a cure for both, urgently,” he says with conviction. “No one expects a t-shirt to change the world, but each of us committing to look at each other as human beings and really see the humanity in everyone is a good start. See the word. Have the conversation. Really talk to each other. Remember that our humanity is the first thing we all have in common. Once we recognize that we share that connection, we can find others.”
The HUMANITY campaign is a truly inspiring collaboration and partnership that reflects some of the overriding ills within society as well as some of the ways that we as a collective can start to break down some of the barriers that exist today. It’s also provided a catalyst for Harry Rosen, a reinforcement to its commitment to diversify its shelves and offering and to create a more equitable and inclusive Canadian fashion market. Backing up its commitment, the retailer recently signed George Sully, the creator of Sully and Son, and the Founder of Black Designers of Canada, to design an upcoming collection for the brand. Sully will be one of the first among a growing roster of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) designers offered by the brand.
A Strategic Approach
It’s a bold commitment by the retailer, a move of significant importance that is well understood by its accomplished CEO. And, although he provides what he describes as a “steady hand on the rudder” for the company, he’s quick to credit the forward-thinking team around him for the vision and execution of the HUMANITY campaign and for their youthful perspective that is helping to continue driving the Harry Rosen brand forward and further the positive influence that it has on the communities it’s a part of.
One of those forward-thinkers that Rosen is privileged to have working with him is the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, SVP Marketing & E-Commerce, Trinh Tham. Credited with much of the excellent work and thinking organizationally that has led to a refreshed look and feel for the brand, Tham and her team are helping to lead Harry Rosen into a new chapter, adding to its already acclaimed history. She explains that the collaboration is part of the broader strategic approach that’s recently been taken by the company to do better, and to appeal to a wider audience of Canadian men.
“Harry Rosen has always been a very values and purpose-driven organization,” she says. “It’s in the company’s DNA. Our partnership with Masai really reflects and emphasizes that aspect of the brand and our values of ‘leadership, passion, creativity and inclusivity’. He’s a great personification of what the company stands for and perfectly fits our focus strategically to work alongside role models that the brand looks up to. Working with him on the HUMANITY campaign allowed us to be a part of something really meaningful and to promote a really strong and positive message. It also helps us in the work that we’re doing to move the brand forward, not only improving the experience we provide our amazing existing customers, but attracting new customers to the brand as well.”
A Powerful Message
Tham describes her involvement in the creation and development of the campaign as an incredible experience, presenting her with the opportunity to contribute to something that she feels deeply passionate about. And it’s a sentiment that she explains was shared by everyone who worked on the project, lending to the power and effectiveness of the campaign.
“We engaged our creative partner, Zulu Alpha Kilo, to work on the project with us,” she says. “The energy displayed by everyone involved was incredible, resulting in an amazing campaign that they helped us develop pro bono, which fit really well with our mandate. The HUMANITY campaign was never meant by anyone involved to be a commercial venture, but as a means to deliver its message. We really focused on creating a campaign that was as genuine and meaningful as possible. The fact that everyone who contributed believes strongly in the message of inclusivity, fairness and openness helped to make it something really special and allowed us the perfect platform to give voice and raise the awareness and recognition of the underrepresented in society.”
Return to its Roots
Despite the success of the campaign to date, however, and the incredible response that’s been received concerning the modernization of the brand that she recently helped execute, Tham stresses that these achievements are the result of a culmination of work that’s been put in by everyone at the company. She explains further that their collective accomplishments and everything else that Harry Rosen does are entrenched in the foundations of the company and inspired by the continued leadership of the Rosen family.
“The HUMANITY campaign and all of the other work that we’re doing to move the brand forward has received full support from the Rosen family and really helps reflect who they are and what they’ve represented to the communities the brand has served through the years. It might seem like a refresh to some. But we haven’t changed anything about the values the brand stands for and believes in. We’re simply returning to our roots and starting to share those values in a more relevant and meaningful way that resonates more profoundly with today’s customer, helping us to grow the brand even further.”