Archive for the ‘Community Involvement’ Category

Free Screening: Brooklyn Castle at Brooklyn Industries 1 Boerum Place

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Working in such a vibrant community, we often get sent music, movies, artwork, among other things in hopes that we can help share it with the world. When this disk landed on our desks, we weren’t sure what to make of it, so we popped it in the player. After a couple of hours and a few teardrops later, we had immediately made up our minds.

We had to do something to help.

Brooklyn Castle documents the after school chess club at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg through the personal stories of a handful of players and their committed instructors. I.S. 318 is a humble middle school in every sense of the word – including financial, yet their inner city chess program has developed into a national powerhouse, routinely capturing national titles – 26 to be exact. But more crucial than the awards, the documentary highlights the empowering effects the game has on the students’ lives, from academics, to their home lives, to the emotional maturation of the adolescents – in a sometimes ridiculously heartwarming fashion. With severe cuts to school budgets in the city, the chess club, among other after school programs, is facing extinction. We called up the Director, Katie Dellamaggiore shortly after, and decided to collaborate on a T-shirt design, with portions of proceeds from the shirt going to help fund the program. The design plays off the name of the county the school resides in – Kings County, and is fashioned after a varsity athletic feel because at I.S. 318, the chess players are the star athletes.

The film initially debuted at SXSW last March, and is scheduled to screen at Sundance in October, but a week before on Saturday, October 13th, Brooklyn Industries will put on a free Brooklyn screening at our 1 Boerum Place location. Come see this amazing film for the first time, help support the movie and chess club, and try your hand at defeating some of these young chess athletes for special prizes (warning – you probably won’t win). RSVP at

Shop the BK Castle Eco Tee. Portions of the proceeds to the I.S.318 chess program.

Children of Promise

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

With the U.S. having the highest rate of incarceration in the world, it’s common for the focus to be on those in prison, but too often, society forgets about the children that they leave behind. When someone is arrested, the police never ask the questions, “How many children do you have?” or “Who’s going to pick up your children?” and the justice system neither has the resources nor interest in the upbringing or mental health of the children left behind. While working at a traditional after school program, Sharon Content started noticing an alarming number of kids with parents in jail – and a lack of a referral service that addressed that particular population. So in 2009, Content founded Children of Promise, a non-profit designed specifically for children of incarcerated parents. Located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood with one of the highest rates of incarceration in the city, Children of Promise is not only an after school program, but is also a licensed mental heath clinic that infuses mental health in all aspects of the program.

Walking around the facilities one early evening on a Friday, every room was buzzing with activity, from art classes to computer classes to homework tutoring to  to nutrition courses. In each room, the children were incredibly polite and clearly appreciative of the opportunity provided to them. And while they weren’t as forthcoming with us about their mental well being, letters posted in the hallway addressed to their parents in jail were sad, honest, and at times devastating reminders of the trauma these kids were experiencing. Content explained to us, “We’re able to really get to the root of the problem for so many of our young people, because we can be the best SAT prep, or the best basketball or chess program, but unless we start to understand why Johnny has this anger, this depression, this loss from the inside, we can’t really make a difference and save Johnny’s life and really break that cycle of involvement in the criminal justice system.”

Mental health is not always part of the healing process and parents or guardians almost never seek the services of psychiatrists. Content added, “They appreciate someone to talk to, look them in the eye, not judge them, not be angry, and ask them ‘How was your day?’ Also through therapeutic art, theater, and spoken word, we allow young people to express themselves with peers in a non-judgmental environment.” Content shared a story of one child who confided with her that his dad was in jail, to which she responded, “Everybody here has a parent in jail!”

As with all non-profits, a major obstacle is funding. Through the tough economic times, contracts have been cut and Congress didn’t renew the grant for the program. To find out how to help, visit Additionally, on Thursday, July 19th, Brooklyn Industries in SoHo will be hosting a shopping event where a portion of the proceeds from sale will go towards the Children of Promise. Come join us for drinks, snacks, shopping, and a chance to help an amazing organization, and the future of many young, promising children.

Pride in Marriage

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

In March earlier this year, Darleen, the store manager for our Park Slope store on 7th Avenue tied the knot with her partner Jasmine in an elaborate speakeasy/cabaret themed wedding in the same East Village theater where they met 12 years ago. With the opening monologue of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy playing over the loud speakers – “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” the newlyweds re-enacted their earlier ceremony at City Hall for their friends and families whom they were able to bring together. Though the couple didn’t feel the need to get married in order to feel closer to each other, there was an overwhelming urge to be “adopted” into each other’s community.  Both agreed that a big part of why they got married was not for themselves, but for their families.

Last year at this time – the week before Pride NYC, the landscape of the LGBT community in New York was considerably different. In the eyes of the state government, Darleen and Jasmine were considered second-class citizens. With the legislature working late into the night on a Friday, news of the bill’s passage got out by the end of the evening and spontaneous celebrations erupted all over the city, most notably in the West Village at the birthplace of the gay rights movement, The Stonewall Inn. Darleen and Jasmine had just moved back to the city at the time, and for them, the announcement was bittersweet –the news was good for New Yorkers, but marriages still weren’t recognized federally, couples across the country weren’t granted the same protections that hetero couples enjoyed like health insurance, and hospital visitation rights. For equal treatment all across America, there was still a long road to travel. Still, the two felt lucky to have seen the issue progress so far. While Darleen and Jasmine hadn’t participated in Pride celebrations for years, they were really excited for the older couples marching in the parade who had struggled and helped propel the movement from its infancy.

When asked what married life has been like, Darleen responded “It’s been pretty much the same.” “We’re pretty excited about our car insurance discount,” Jasmine added with a laugh. Reflecting back on the wedding though, both talked about feeling much more emotional about it than expected. A particular highlight for Darleen was a speech given by her brother that evening. Talking about the sinking of the Titanic, which had occurred 100 years before, her brother talked about those people being a part of history. Darleen and Jasmine, on the other hand, were not just passengers along for the ride – they were making history.

Shop the Pride Shirt online here.

BKI Takes Part in AIDS Walk NYC

Monday, May 21st, 2012


While it’s pretty rare for for us to set our alarms for 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it was definitely worth meeting up with the BKI team on a beautiful day in Central Park to take part in our first AIDS Walk NYC. Here are a few pics from the beautiful day of the team in BKI’s Pride shirts, designed by our graphic designer, Meagan Buis. 45,000 people showed up to the event, raising over 6 million dollars combined. We’ll definitely be back next year!

The BKI Staff Takes a Hike in Support of AIDS Walk 2012

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Above: Ajay Bedi

For the first time, Brooklyn Industries will be participating in the world’s largest AIDS fundraising campaign, AIDS Walk New York on May 20th. Now in its 27th year, the walk was originally organized by Gay Men’s Health Crisis which was started with only six men operating an AIDS hotline in 1981 – long before the epidemic entered the national consciousness. BKI’s involvement in the walk arose from the initiative Ajay Bedi, of one of our employees at our Dumbo store. Besides his retail work, Bedi is also a Production Associate and Fundraising Specialist for AIDS Walk. Not only did Bedi see an opportunity to fuse two of his loves – fashion and fundraising, he also saw a great opportunity to work for an event that he views as a Ghostbusters moment – an opportunity for all New Yorkers to come together.

Last year’s walk raised 6.7 million, and many of the top fundraising teams were retailers. As a company with multiple stores and employees, BKI is harnessing the idea of power in numbers in order to raise a significant amount. To donate to the BKI team, click here.

Other resources

Gay Men’s Health Crisis

AIDS Walk New York

The Seed Dress – Made in Brooklyn, Made to Bury

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. – Henry David Thoreau

While we love designing garments and bags and making them available for people to purchase, sometimes it’s fun to do things just for the sake of doing it. A few months ago, a bunch of us were sitting around the studio when Aaron, our Women’s Designer told us about this great company called Greenaid in California that his friends run that makes Seedbombs, and how we should write about them on our blog. Our CEO, Lexy suggested that instead of just promoting them, we should use them to make something. It was then that the idea for the Seed Dress was sown.

Three dresses were then designed and handmade by Aaron and our design team to be put on display in our Union Square, Smith Street, and Park Slope store to celebrate Earth Day, after which a ceremonial burial will take place at a nearby park. All the components of the dresses are earth friendly, from the locally sourced organic cotton voile, to the seeds embedded in fabric cut into flower shapes. The beads themselves act as the enclosures eliminating any zippers or plastic buttons. Aaron’s inspirations for the design drew from spring, femininity, and environmentalism, and the look is slightly vintage, girlish, and light, with a modern fit and styling – a design that would look great both on a woman and underground.

For Seedsbombs you can purchase, check out our Seedbomb bracelets and vending machines available in stores at Union Square, Smith Street, and Park Slope.

Terrarium Building Event at BKI WIlliamsburg

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Let’s face it, miniature gardens are cool. Who didn’t fall in love with Mr. Miyagi’s mini horticultural wonderland in The Karate Kid?  Well, now’s your chance to build your own at our Terrarium Building Event at our store in Williamsburg. Floral design studio, Red Rose & Lavender will be on hand to guide you through the terrarium building process, and even supply soil, moss, and other accessories necessary to start a garden – you just bring your favorite glass bowl, jar, or vase. Complimentary drinks proved by Sixpoint and Runa Tea. Limited seating is available. Please rsvp to

Earth Week Garden Building in Brownsville, Brooklyn

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Betsy and Emi cleaning a garden bed

Yesterday, we rounded up the BKI team and headed out to Isabahlia Garden in Brownsville, Brooklyn for a day of sun and volunteering. After being abandoned for two years, the garden had become overgrown and unused. We had a fun, fulfilling time yanking weeds, hacksawing old branches, and watching big tree trunks crush under the might of heavy machinery. With power in numbers, we were able to clear out the space of old debris in just three and a half hours. Check out the before and after pictures below!



For Brenda Duchene of Isabahlia Garden, spreading gardens is vital to a greater proliferation of fresh fruits and vegetables, providing community access to local healthy sources, and educating families about nutrition, composting, recycling, and entrepreneurialism. With the space cleared, not only is a new garden planned, but an entrepreneurial program for kids to work the land and sell the produce is in the works. In addition, Duchene plans to open a farmers market in Brownsville, a neighborhood that currently does not have any. With just a few hours of manpower, we hopefully brought her that much closer to her goal.

Erin, Brenda, and Lexy. (And Melissa trimming brush in the background)

Aaron looking fashionable as usual

The BKI team post cleanup

Fashion Meets Guerilla Gardening with our new Seedbomb Bracelets

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The Seedbomb Bracelet

Have you ever walked down the street, seen an unsightly empty or discarded lot, and felt helpless to do anything about it? Enter Seedbombs, gumball sized nuggets from Greenaid, that when incorporated into a bracelet, make portable weapons of mass beauty.

All month long, we’re celebrating Earth Day at BKI, and the Seedbomb Bracelet is our opening salvo. We reached out to our friends at Greenaid, who hand rolled the seedbombs in Culver City, CA, using local materials and sustainable packaging. Greenaid also works with Chrysalis, a local non-profit that provides employment opportunities for formerly homeless or economically disadvantaged men and women.

The Seedbomb bracelets were crafted in our DUMBO, Brooklyn design studio with 100% cotton cording. Currently, you can pick one up at our Union Square, Park Slope, and Smith Street stores, and vending machines are also set up there for individual Seedbombs for 50 cents a piece. The seedbombs are composed of a mixure of clay compost and seeds, and can be thrown anywhere in the city, yard, or neighborhood, transforming  barren spaces into beautiful miniature gardens with a little sun and water.

Seedbombers in action

Celebrating BKI Portland’s Birthday with Oncology Youth Connection

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

This week, our Portland store is turning three, and we’re celebrating the store’s accomplishments by giving something back to the Portland community. Our store manager, Miles Hewitson reached out to his close friend, Grant Roesler, a cancer survivor and founder and director of Oncology Youth Connection, an organization whose mission is to inspire resilience in young adults challenged with cancer by providing a community of peers that participate in social, service, and educational activities, and increase awareness about young adult cancer issues. Join OYC members and the Portland community on April 4th from 7-9pm for a special shopping experience and cocktails to celebrate life and longevity.