Philanthropy is part of Ashley Biden’s DNA. Joe and Jill Biden‘s daughter grew up aware of many causes (she was an animal rights crusader at the age of 7!) thanks to her parents political influence, and she’s dedicated her life to giving back to the under-served communities around her. Now the 35-year-old social worker (she runs the Delaware Center for Justice) is combining her commitment to social justice with her passion for fashion in a new Gilt collaboration.
Ashley just launched Livelihood Inc., a “socially and ethically conscious apparel company that’s inspired by extraordinary everyday people,” and she’s teaming up with Gilt to sell a collection of hoodies with 100 percent of net proceeds donated to Livelihood’s community development initiatives.
“I was looking for a partner that could help me a develop a collection of hoodies that were all designed, sourced and produced here in the United States,” Ashley tells PeopleStyle. “One of the biggest things that Livelihood encourages is getting involved locally.”
And Livelihood’s goals align perfectly with the Gilt business model.
“We do all these exclusive collaborations where we bring together fashion and philanthropy,” Gilt and Saks Off 5th President Jonathan Greller tells PeopleStyle. “That’s exactly what we stand for and we thought that this collaboration could be a meaningful way to unite Gilt expertise in design, production, e-commerce with Ashley’s dedication to communities in need.”
Ashley debuted her stylish hoodie collection, which includes women’s, kids and unisex styles ranging from $79 to $99, at a New York Fashion Week kick-off party Tuesday night alongside her supportive parents.
The former vice president introduced his daughter to the crowd and tells PeopleStyle that while Ashley’s new hoodie will be the first zip-up in his closet, he couldn’t think of a “better one” to wear.
“I’ve always believed that when given a fair shot, ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” he shares. “You get dressed every day—if you’re using that opportunity to support your community and your neighbors, you’re helping give people a fair shot to do something extraordinary with their lives.”
Ashley, who is a self-professed “jeans, hoodie and hoops” kind of girl also teamed up with Delaware native Aubrey Plaza to spread the Livelihood message.
“I believe Wilmington and surrounding communities in Delaware need help and I want to get involved,” Aubrey says. “I think Ashley is incredibly smart and I love her ideas. We both talked about our love for Wilmington and for Delaware. I told her how some of the community programs in Wilmington influenced me as a child and helped me get to where I am today—namely, the Wilmington Drama League, a community theater, which allowed me to explore acting at a young age among other like-minded, aspiring artists. It’s places like these I want to support so they can change other people’s lives as well.”
Learn more about Ashley’s philanthropic passion project in our exclusive interview below.
It seems like perfect timing for this collaboration. How was it born?
I didn’t go out seeking people. I have a full-time job, and busy as it was, this was kind something that I would at home at night and would write and make sketches and dream of. But everything just happened like it was supposed to. I had a serendipitous run-in with Jonathan as I was running to catch a train after an event and within two weeks it was born. And I honestly believe it was my brother, Beau [Biden], who passed away and who was my best friend. He knew about this idea and he loved it. He was also my shopping buddy so any time I needed to go shopping I called my brother and vice versa. And so I think it was kind of him from above saying, ‘Hey Ash, you gotta do this.” It’s super special.
Why are purchases that give back more important now than ever?
I feel the country is so divided with everything that’s going on and as Americans, as people from all different races and cultures and religions, we can all get behind is economic equality. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations. We have the largest wealth gap—1 percent of the population owns the majority of the wealth. We have 45 million people living below poverty. One of the big things with Livelihood is infusing under-resourced zip codes with funding for economic development projects as well as encouraging people to get involved. Getinvolvedinyourhood.com is an interactive website that talks about our social and collective history as it relates to economic justice. It provides various people, whether innovators in the human service field, creatives, entrepreneurs, who are looking to make a change, with effective models that work across the country to reduce poverty in communities. We’re also going to highlight main policy reforms that are linked to economic justice and really talk about the importance of civic engagement. When people know better, they do better. I really believe that we have a knowledge gap in this country on governance. Things like: What is the electoral college? Why is voting important? What does voting affect? One of the biggest things Livelihood will encourage is to get involved locally. I believe the most crucial and important elections are on the state level. It’s on the off years: It’s your county council men and women, it’s your local congressmen and your local senators in state government.
How involved were you in the actual design process?
All the way. There were two things I thought of when I was dreaming this. I wanted to put a reflector on the right wrist. The other thing was on the back I chose a phrase that says, “Keep your hood up,” It’s a reminder that life is really tough and to keep your head up and always look forward. It’s also about keeping your neighborhood up and focusing on positive outreach in your community.
Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to go into the kind of social work that you do?
When I was 7, I was very influenced by my mom and I get my creative side from her. She was an entrepreneur and was always so involved in our community and taught me random acts of kindness go a really long way. My dad was a public servant and a change agent so I was privileged in that I was able at a young age to experience all walks of life through campaigning. I would go from a fancy fundraiser to an impoverished area to knock on doors. I got a real sense that there was an inherent injustice. My big thing when I was younger was animal rights activism. I started by writing letters to Bonne Bell. I loved my lip gloss, but when I heard that they tested on animals I was furious. And I organized friends at my school to also write letters. My dad always taught me that if you see an injustice and you want it changed, you must act. It’s your duty to act.
What’s the best piece of advice your dad has given you?
One that stands out is, “It doesn’t matter who gets credit for it as long as it gets done.” I think another one is, “Don’t question people’s motives. Question their judgment.” That last piece is really helpful in my work because oftentimes we’re dealing with people with opposing views or ideas and I think it’s instinct to want to judge people’s motives but the truth is we don’t know people’s motives and you can’t assume because oftentimes you end up being wrong about your assumptions. My dad has always said really focus on people’s judgments about things and how they’re going about policy. My dad is an incredible man and my best friend and I used to always call him before I had a big presentation or a big anything and his advice to me was, “Ash just be yourself. That’s enough.” Those calming words helped me grow into my own skin as well as my authentic voice.
Are you the first person to get Joe Biden to wear a hoodie?
We get hoodies from various things, but to be frank, he is not a hoodie wearer. He doesn’t really wear a ton of sweatshirts. He’s more of a kind of classic turtleneck and mock sweater kind of guy. But he does own a navy Livelihood hoodie and the funny thing is, I went over for dinner the other night and he walked down the stairs in his hoodie and I had to laugh. I said, “Dad, I’ve never seen you in a hoodie,” and he said, “This thing is comfortable!”
Do you ever shop your mom’s closet?
All the time. I have my whole life. The funny thing is, I used to constantly take her clothes growing up. It was a constant battle, but guess who’s taking the clothes now? I got four new sweaters last year that I absolutely loved and over the past few months I am like, “Where are those sweaters!?” and every time I see her she has a different one on.
What’s the oldest thing in your closet?
It’s actually this Army sweatshirt that I ended up cutting. I got it in high school. It has a scoop neck so it looks kind of cool with jeans and all of my girlfriends try to take it from me. I have managed to hold on to it.