Philanthropy is an incredibly important component at Shawn Warren Jewelry. Though not widely known, Shawn contributes a portion of her annual sales to a number of non-profit organizations. One of the many ways Shawn likes to give back is through her partnerships with retailers such as Alexander McQueen or with one of her long time collaborators like Esther Fein.
Esther is on the Board of Directors of New York Collaborates for Autism, a pioneering organization in the development and dissemination of educational, social and vocational programs that people with autism can access now. She is a mother of three children and her husband, David Remnick, is the editor of the New Yorker. Esther was a reporter at the New York Times for nearly 20 years, but she left to take care of her daughter when she was diagnosed with autism.
We sat down with Esther to discuss NYCA and why it is important to her.
SWJ: How long have you been working with NYCA? How does this non-profit contribute to the community?
I had admired NYCA since its founding about 10 years ago, but I was honored when I was invited to join the board of the nonprofit five years ago. NYCA is a game-changing organization. We create groundbreaking programs that benefit people coping with autism spectrum disorder, including the New York Charter School for Autism, the BOOST peer mentoring program, the Project Search Collaborates for Autism vocational training program, and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain (CADB), a comprehensive evaluation and treatment resource.
Other organizations do great work in researching the causes of autism, or lobbying to change laws. But those efforts can take years to yield results. Our focus is on creating and sustaining programs that are available now, in New York and across the country. Don’t let our name mislead you. We support and grow programs on a national level, too.
SWJ: You have raised a lot of money for NYCA working with Shawn Warren Jewelry. Why did you select Shawn as a partner and how has your collaboration evolved through the years?
Actually, I didn’t select Shawn. Shawn has such a big heart, she came to me and offered to do a benefit sale. “I want to do something to honor Natasha,” she said. Natasha is our daughter and the gesture brought me to tears. My two sons and Shawn’s son went to the same school and she and I had been friends for years. I have been a customer since she first began her business, and one of my favorite necklaces is a diamond and topaz piece from her first collection. I was so moved by her suggestion. It just showed me that Shawn is truly a giver. I didn’t solicit her help. She sought me out to do “good”.
Together we created Retail Therapy for Autism, and we have done three incredibly successful events together, pairing Shawn’s exquisite jewelry with different hot clothing designers.
SWJ: From your experience, what is it like to host a retail shopping event for charity with Shawn Warren?
Shawn is a perfectionist, is stunning herself, and has impeccable taste. She takes care of every detail for our events, from choosing the right clothing partner to setting up beautiful displays of the jewelry to designing the invitations. Most importantly, she gets the word out about our events, and her customers come out because they want to support her philanthropy drive and they are eager to see her latest jewelry creations.
Shawn also has a great eye for what will look special on each person – and which earrings or rings go with which outfits. And she allows people to make their choices without pressure. So many designers push their collections aggressively and end up alienating potential customers. Shawn takes a more elegant and warm approach and I can see how much shoppers appreciate that.
SWJ: What is your favorite piece of jewelry from Shawn and why? What do you think it is about her designs that keeps her loyal clientele coming back for more pieces to add to their collections?
Are you seriously going to make me choose my favorite piece? That is really tough for me. Sentimentally, I adore that first piece because it marked the beginning of a dear friend’s new incarnation as an artist. I love bracelets and I have a lace cuff from a few years ago that I adore. I also have a pair of diamond and rose gold shoops that hardly ever leave my ears. But my current favorite piece is probably the rose gold cuff my husband conspired to buy for me this past year for my birthday. Usually, I figure out his surprises. But this time, he and Shawn and my friend Wendy kept it a complete secret. I love it and wear it all the time.
SWJ: What's next for you and NYCA?
NYCA is now embarking on a pioneering program for adults with autism that will allow them to live safely and with dignity in typical communities. When people hear the statistics, they usually hear that 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. What people don’t seem to be focusing on is the fact that these children with autism will become adults with autism, and there is no system to cope with this burgeoning population.
So stay tuned, because NYCA is working hard to meet that need with our trademark innovation. And I know we can count on Shawn to help us bring our dream to reality.