The Billion Closet That's Making Fashion a Force for Good | npENGAGE

The $13 Billion Closet That’s Making Fashion a Force for Good

By on Jun 3, 2015


Fashion Project

I get the feeling that some people think ‘doing good’ is left up to the nonprofit sector to carry out alone, as if we’re not all in this together or that giving back is just a mere line on our check-lists and not meant to infiltrate and define our culture.

But more and more I’m inspired by these mission-driven start-ups that are disrupting the way we think about giving back and giving me hope that philanthropy is changing for good—the way we think about it, its role and its place in our culture. Increasingly, we’re seeing causes influence more than just the nonprofit industry; they’re re-shaping business culture and challenging the ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ mentality that too often prevents us from activating real change.

And we’re better for it.

We’re better for it because we’re no longer just asking for better—we’re demanding it. And this demand is transforming the way we look at and measure social good. The truth is that a majority of us are not just looking for jobs anymore. We’re looking for purpose. We don’t make purchases just because big brands tell us to. We purchase based on trust. And we don’t support causes just because a mission statement sounds good.  No. Times have changed and people are demanding results.

We want to see that good is actually going viral—that real progress is being made—and we want to know that somehow we’ve played a part.

It’s all about social good, about investing in the fabric of our communities to make them better, about finding new, different, and often more compelling ways to volunteer, to serve. – Rachel Hutchisson, VP of Corporate Citizenship and Philabthropy, Blackbaud

Subsequently, this demand (and need) for more social good means that passion projects are growing into corporations and inspired Millennials are becoming CEOs. Anna Palmer, co-founder of Fashion Project, is one of those inspired CEOs.  And I had the privilege of spending a few minutes with her on the phone, discussing what inspired her company and where it’s headed.

The $13 Billion Closet

The seeds were planted in high school and college, when Anna started nonprofits and hosted fundraisers of her own and became well-acquainted with the struggles facing the giving industry. She realized early on that it’s not always easy to inspire someone to open their wallet for your cause, especially when you have to compete with so many others for dollars, participation, and attention. So when Anna learned that $13 billion worth of shoes, clothing, and accessories are donated each year across the U.S., she realized there was opportunity to do something different. Instead of competing for cash, she could start a movement that captured just a piece of the retail market and turn people’s donated clothing (which is usually only sold for thirty cents a pound) into something more—a force for good.

Instead of selling a designer jacket for $2 in a thrift store, what if we could take the jacket, maximize its value and donate up to 55 percent of the proceeds to any cause chosen by the donor?

And with that thought, Fashion Project was born.

Fashion Project is on a mission to raise as much money as possible for charity by creating a community where members can donate clothing and shop for causes they care about. Every member is a hero. And every dress, handbag, and designer shoe donated is fueling a movement that’s impacting the lives of others around the world.

fashion project

And they’re accomplishing this by activating retailers and tapping into two key audiences: nonprofits and millennials.

Most nonprofit organizations have no way of accepting donated goods and depend solely on cash donations, meaning that every day opportunity is lost. Fashion Project makes it possible to raise more money by turning clothes into cash for the organizations and causes members care about. And with the launch of ‘My Fashion Project,’ a kickstarter-style fundraising platform that allows members to socialize everything they’re doing, organizations are now able to create their own projects and encourage supporters to start individual campaigns.

They’ve made doing good so simple.

You choose a cause. You tell your story. You invite your networks to donate items or shop your closet. And Fashion Project makes sure that every dime raised goes directly to the charity of your choice.

My Fashion Project

It’s mission-driven organizations like this that are bridging the divide between companies, nonprofits, and do-gooders and making philanthropy a force for all. For Fashion Project that means a force for clean water, a force for global literacy, a force for aids relief, a force for autism research, a force for food, a force for a cure, a force for awareness, a force for peace.

It’s fashion as a force for good.

Anna Palmer is going to be sharing her story in Chicago with a group of us Millennials at the end of this month. Learn more about Fashion Project and MCON, and follow along with me on Twitter to hear more about milliennial impact.


Madeline Turner is a social media expert, and was formerly the online and social marketing manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a managing editor for Blackbaud’s content marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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