I’m left with many impressions of SXSW’s first ever fashion component, Style X. However, among those impressions I’m referred back to a comment I made in an earlier Fashionation blog: “Fashion is not just a passion; it is a lifestyle that tells a story about ourselves, from something as ubiquitous as what kind of coffee we drink, to something as controversial as what kind of politics we practice.” While at Style X, I learned that many brands and designers are doing just that with their clothes today—getting political and striking up a conversation about it. I ran into a few fashion companies that are not only donating a portion of their success to their chosen non-profit but who have—surprisingly and profitably—built a fashion line for the sole purpose of supporting their cause.
Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms Shoes who also happened to speak at SXSW this year, is a successful and famous example of fashion for a cause. A native Texan, Mycoskie went on a trip to Argentina a few years ago, and, shocked to find children without shoes on their feet, returned to the states to create Toms Shoes, a for-profit footwear company which designs the traditional Argentinean shoe, the Alpargata. Each time an American buys a pair of Toms Shoes, a pair is sent to a child somewhere around the world, preventing diseases that over a billion people in the world suffer from as a result of not wearing shoes on their feet.
Open Arms, a sustainable for-profit company featured at SXSW’s Style X, maintains that they’re, “a company with a conscience,” as they enable a better life for refugee women by providing them with jobs that pay livable wages. Open Arms engages the community by asking for donations in the form of old t-shirts, which they recycle to create one-of-a-kind clothing products. The company not only accepts recycled clothing, but volunteers as well.
Krochet Kids International, “Buy a hat, change a life,” teaches developing countries how to crochet to break the cycle of poverty. The non-profit company, while only three years old now, was created by three guys from Spokane, Washington who were even featured in their local paper as the “Krochet Kids,” as their love of snowboarding inspired them to crochet and sell beanies to their high school friends. During college, the friends separated but were inspired by their travels, in particular a trip to Northern Uganda, in which one of the friends learned that the Ugandan people rely heavily on their government because rebel armies had torn the northern country apart. Today, Krochet Kids International teaches the Ugandan people how to crochet so that they can pay them a wage to be independent and support their family.
Fortunately, you did not need to attend SXSW’s Style X to get involved with the mission of Toms Shoes, Open Arms, or Krochet Kids International. Next time you need to buy a pair of shoes or a beanie, or get rid of some old t-shirts, you’ll know where to look.
For more “Fashion for a Cause,” join me in San Antonio, Texas this Saturday evening March 26, from 5:30 – 7:30 at the Pearl Brewery’s Aveda Institute. Aveda San Antonio will premiere their first “Catwalk for Water,” a national, annual Aveda event that raises funds and awareness for clean water. Beneficiaries for this runway show include the Gulf Coast Restoration Network and Global Greengrants Fund.