When Charmaine Lang came to the United States, she faced a dilemma familiar to many immigrants: What to do for work? In South Africa, Lang was a business woman, manufacturing belts. But she found it difficult to get a job here, picking up a gig as a restaurant server.
Lucky for Lang, her entrepreneurial wheels never stopped turning.
Lang saw that restaurants used expensive point-of-sale terminals and realized it was more lucrative to sell those than to sling meals. She quit her waitressing job to become a traveling saleswoman. One night on the road, missing home and her son Gilad, she settled down in her hotel and wrapped herself in a towel: a scratchy, thin, poor-quality hotel towel.
The entrepreneurial wheels turned again, and The Madison Collection was born. Today, Lang’s Miami-based luxury linen business is nearly 20 years old, serving wholesale and retail customers worldwide.
The Madison Collection’s Feel Good, Do Good Campaign
Since Day One, The Madison Collection’s mission has been to promote sustainable environmental and labor practices. Its products are manufactured in Brazil using eco-friendly processes. Water is heated using waste fiber briquettes, and looms use a flour-and-water paste as opposed to industrial glue.
And now, The Madison Collection is poised to be the next big buy-one, give-one company. Its Feel Good, Do Good initiative is aimed at one of the most integral parts of hospitality and linen manufacturing: water.
The Feel Good, Do Good campaign, started in October in partnership with Wine to Water, works like this: For every high-end bathrobe The Madison Collection sells online, the company gives a ceramic water filter to a family in the Dominican Republic or Haiti. The filters provide a household with clean water for up to 10 years. So far, more than 518 people have benefited from the program.
Remember that son who Lang was missing when she was on the road? Gilad Lang joined the family business a year ago as vice president of business development. He came on board after working on social impact initiatives for Carnival Corp., the Peace Corps and the Safety Lab, an innovation hub in South Africa.
‘We Want to Be the Warby Parker of Bathrobes’
“I looked at our industry and what harms it was causing,” Gilad said. “One of the biggest things was the amount of water that is used. I thought, ‘How can we have a positive impact?’”
Gilad connected with Wine to Water during his work on Fathom, Carnival’s socially conscious cruise line. When he joined his mom’s business, the opportunity to give back to those in need in the Caribbean was impossible to ignore.
“We’ve dedicated our entire bathrobe category online to this initiative,” he said. “This is part of our business model going forward. We want to be the Warby Parker or Toms of bathrobes. When you put on your bathrobe, you have directly and personally given one family safe drinking water.”
In the Lang family, the entrepreneurial drive — and community spirit — clearly has passed from one generation to another.
“I’m from the baby boomer generation, and Gilad is just on the cusp of being a millennial,” Charmaine said. “I’ve given him full reign to do it his way and find his own path.”