Charity Is Always In Style at Akira

2 06 2009

Chicago is full of dynasties and legendary families. Da Bears, the Daleys, the Pritzkers, the Obamas are just some of the few. You can definitely add local superstar and fashion favorite, Akira, into that roster. Over the past 7 years, Akira has grown from one store to 7 stores by focusing on superior style and service. Founded by college friends and U of I alum, Erikka Wang, Eric Hsueh, and Jon Cotay, their reign runs from Lincoln Park to the Magnificent Mile, and, of course, Bucktown, where they own 20,000 square feet of real estate divided into 4 stores and an office building.

While that is certainly impressive on its own, I am even more inspired by Akira’s unwavering commitment to charitable organizations and causes. My first introduction to Akira was three years ago at their annual Garden of Eden fashion show which benefits Imerman Angels, a charity which matches cancer fighters with survivors. In the past year, I’ve featured AKIRA events at least 6 times. So, I finally decided that it was time for me to profile this company and take a closer look at how and why they give.  I called Jon, one-third of the stylish trinity, and he was awesome enough to entertain my questions 🙂

Hsueh, Wang, and Cotay (

Hsueh, Wang, and Cotay (

When I entered the office on North Avenue, I was immediately caught up in the casual relaxed atmosphere. There were no fancy workstations and stuffy staff members. There were desks with piles of samples, files, and other documents on them, and cool people enjoying themselves and each other.

As Jon and I began talking, one thing became very clear. Akira’s charitable involvement is not just some half-baked business ploy. This company really does care about community organizations and has a real commitment to do what it can!

Every year, AKIRA donates numerous gift certificates for silent auction or raffle gifts, hosts several in-store events to benefit organizations, and sponsors a few charity fashion shows. This year, they either have helped or will help organizations including UNICEF, Imerman Angels, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. The company has a reputation of always doing what they can to help the community. Junior boards, event chairs, and volunteers solicit donations from Akira staff on the regular. So, how does Akira determine which organizations to help?

Well, there is no formula, but there is a whiteboard. A whiteboard in the office which keeps track of all the companies’ charitable commitments for the year. I tried counting the number of organizations on the board but I lost track after 20, and that’s not counting any of the causes assisted at the beginning of the year. I asked Jon if Akira had a quota or maximum number of organizations that they helped yearly.

“There’s no set number. Actually, I just got a call this morning to provide some gift certificates for a charity event,” he stated matter-of-factly before scrolling through his Blackberry and adding the cause and form of assistance on the white board. It’s not uncommon to help at least 50 groups each year. And, it’s not just about hosting events. The company is also looking to add more products and brands in-store and online that have a charitable focus.

They are always looking for new ways to grow and maintain relationships with local organizations, so if you have an event and would be interested in Akira’s assistance, definitely reach out to them. Now, that’s fabulous giving!

Thanks to Jon for taking the time out to talk to me! To learn more about Akira and for store locations, visit their website at





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