SOUTHPORT, Conn. -- It's been called the most important fashion accessory for spring 2017 but for Richard and Ashley Perkin, the belts they've created are more about feeling good about your look in more ways than one.
The Southport couple came up with the idea of creating a preppy line of belts for adults and children a little over two years ago with the mission to also support charities near and dear to their heart.
Five percent of each Gells Belts purchase goes to charities including the Arthritis National Research Foundation, National Canine Cancer Foundation, Breast Cancer Alliance, Thanks USA and Blue Ocean Society.
"We wanted to collaborate on a product that would be fun, functional and give back," said Ashley, who has a background in accessories and beauty. (Richard, a vice president at Westport-based Wolverine Investments, has a background in business.)
"We agreed that a belt would be right because it’s a staple in everyone’s wardrobe and you can have some fun with various colors for the belt," she said.
The ultimate goal, she added, was to start a conversation and raise awareness about causes the couple support.
So far, so good. Since their launch in late 2014, the couple has donated approximately $5,000 in belt sales, sponsorship donations and in-kind donations of products.
Not only are the belts a big hit -- they are sold locally at Wiggles & Giggles in Darien, Groove in Westport, Saltwater in Fairfield, and Clutch in Rye, N.Y., as well as online -- but the couple frequently participate in their charity partner events.
To say they are involved is an understatement. Along with the charity work -- which they feel very strongly about ---- they design the belts themselves, getting inspiration from their two children, ages three and one, and their surroundings in coastal Connecticut.
Adult belts are unisex and come in 10 colors. The children’s belts, which were introduced a tad later into the process, are full of playful elements such as an anchor, lightning bolt, skull & crossbones, lobster, and a whale fin. There are five core kid's designs but they also do custom monogramming and design custom belts for corporations and youth sports teams.
Ashley stressed that the belts are intended to be fun, functional and durable; versatile enough to be worn on the golf course, working in the garden or to a cocktail party. They can even survive a run through the washing machine; a plus with small kids.
There are more ideas -- and the thought of additional products in mind -- but for now, the Perkins say they are focused on growing the brand and broadening their current distribution.
Said Ashley: "We hope people will purchase a Gells belt because they love the look, but also feel that it’s a thoughtful and responsible purchase."