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American Express Fuels Small Business Through Designer Collaborations

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According to American Express, supporting small businesses all summer long — especially in August when many consumers take vacations — is vital with its recent survey findings revealing that shopping small over summer weekends alone can help inject $27 billion into the national economy.

Notably, early this summer American Express committed more than $100 million to inspire consumers to support small businesses globally through its year-round “Shop Small” campaign and “Let’s Go Shop Small” summer campaign.

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For its latest initiative in its ongoing campaign, the company is partnering with Ntwrk alongside Melody Ehsani, Rhuigi Villaseñor and Telsha Anderson to create unique, limited-edition items in collaboration with some of their favorite small businesses. The collections will be available for purchase starting the weekend of August 20.

Recognizing that consumers across the country are increasingly turning to digital platforms to support small businesses, American Express’ collaboration with Ntwrk on this initiative will allow shoppers to experience the collaborations through live video shopping. The items will be available exclusively on Ntwrk for 24 hours before becoming available at the small business locations.

“At American Express, we are always looking for ways to encourage consumers to shop small, and knowing the hardships brought on by the pandemic, they need our support now more than ever,” said Walter Frye, vice president of global brand engagement and design at American Express. “We recently conducted a survey and found that nearly half of those surveyed would be more willing to purchase an item if it was exclusive or available for a limited time, which is why we engaged these incredible designers to work alongside their favorite small businesses to create unique and meaningful products.”

While American Express has launched product drops in the past — including a recent partnership with Quincy Moore on a limited-edition, travel-inspired clothing collection for New York or Nowhere that sold out in 48 hours — Frye told WWD the upcoming designer collection was unique as it reimagines how to support small businesses and independent designers.

In fact, each of the three designer collections supports its own small business chosen by the designer, opening the opportunity to work with friends and favorite shops they wished to spotlight.

Melody Ehsani, the creative and streetwear designer who has earned a loyal following built on community and female empowerment through her mission to inspire creative women to follow their divine blueprint, leveraging design as their medium, chose to partner with friend Maurice Harris, owner of the floral studio and coffee shop, Bloom & Plume, in Los Angeles, for a limited-edition outdoor rec set.

“Maurice was a natural choice of collaborator for me because I am so inspired by his fun, radiant and inspiring personality,” Ehsani told WWD. “I wanted to bring that feeling to life and share it with others. This collaboration is extra special because we’ve been friends for 15 years. It was important to both of us that the products we create together emulate both our brand’s DNA, and I think this collaboration does just that.”

The rec set designed by Ehsani includes a canvas tote, bandana, hiking socks and fleece set and is designed to “bring happiness and freedom to be all of what you are to the wearer.”

When she was asked to participate in American Express’ campaign Ehsani said she was “excited to get on board with an initiative where I can collaborate with my friend, be creative and develop limited-edition products that encourage people to get active — all while supporting small businesses at a time when they need it most. I feel that small businesses are the heart of our nation. They keep us afloat, allow for diversity and creativity, and opportunity for all kinds of people.”

Like Ehsani, Villaseñor told WWD that he recognized the ongoing struggle being put on local shops and restaurants during the pandemic and was pleased to be able to support one of his favorite Los Angeles restaurants, Petit Trois le Valley.

“I think we’re in a golden era of commerce where the people are creating businesses and products based on what’s truly desired by the customers and it’s important for us to support and grow the ecosystem, which is why I jumped at [this] opportunity,” Villaseñor said. “It was an honor to create an item that is truly inspired by the brilliant cooking from chef Ludo Lefebvre of Petit Trois. When we came together to collaborate, we wanted to create something that was a symbol of unity from all fields of business and art, and I think that is what we have done – it’s something I am really proud of.”

Together, Villaseñor and Lefebvre designed a limited-edition hat, launching on Aug. 21.

For Telsha Anderson, founder and buyer of T.A., the opportunity to collaborate in the initiative with American Express was also a chance to create something that would highlight unique design and reflect ambitions she shared with Shannon Maldonado who founded Yowie, a creative studio and lifestyle boutique in Philadelphia. The two founders became friends online through a shared appreciation for design and art and the love of building authentic brands.

Anderson’s design, which she hopes tells the story of abundance and growth, is a one-of-a-kind playful sculpture of a woman’s hand holding grapes.

“The collaboration between Shannon and I will hopefully encourage other small businesses to partner together and create a product or service themselves that speaks to their core values,” Anderson said. “The collaboration is special because it showcases our playful personalities while simultaneously representing the importance of female ownership, abundance and our approach to business. Supporting small businesses, especially businesses that are owned by minorities, helps our economy and encourages young men and women to strive toward ownership within their communities. As an owner, I’m encouraged by the support I’ve found from other small businesses like my own and hope to continue to inspire the next generation of leaders like American Express has done.”

Looking ahead, Frye told WWD, consumers can look forward to more Shop Small initiatives. In November, the company will host its 12th annual Small Business Saturday to drive holiday shopping to small businesses following Thanksgiving.


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