glam for a good cause
The Hip Humanitarian Project collects and auctions high-end fashion to benefitlocal charities
“What will your fashion statement do for the world?”
Non-profit The Hip Humanitarian Project, a charitable organization born from a fundraising drive held by UT sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, knows that there’s a comfortable balance between being a slave to fashion and being aware of the impact your habits have on the world.
Last year, Kappa Kappa Gamma partnered with social philanthropic org Building Tomorrow. Frustrated by the lack of creative fundraising options, then-junior Hayley Swindell began brainstorming ways to raise cash for the non-profit, which was preparing to build a school in Uganda.
Out of nowhere, it hit her: why not offer a way for people to give money while getting something back? And why not make that “something” very special — say, like designer couture?
“At the time I was living at a sorority house, and I was trying to think of ways to raise funds,” Swindell explains. “I realized that everybody has so many clothes, and they’re always shopping.” She laughs, explaining that coming home to shopping bags and closets filled with still-tagged clothes is common in sororities.
She quickly made the connection between these piles of unworn — and expensive — garments, and the need to attract monetary donations.
Her solution, The Hip Humanitarian Project, collects gently used and new designer clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry and accessories from UT and the greater Austin community, pricing each garment well (and I mean well) below retail price and reselling them at events benefiting local groups.
Their first official event, again with Building Tomorrow, raised $600 in just two hours. Their most recent auction was in partnership with Marbridge, a long-term care facility for adults with cognitive difficulties.
Hip Humanitarian gives savvy shoppers a chance to snag like-new garments from names like Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Coach, Marc Jacobs and many more, at a fraction of regular retail price. The benefits are twofold; on the surface, shoppers are treated to huge bargains and are able to afford otherwise inaccessible brands. But more importantly, cash is going directly to a local non-profit, not a department store.
“When you hear gently used, it can have a bad stigma to it, but our clothes are great quality and high-end brands,” says Swindell. “So when you shop you don’t feel guilty, because it’s going to charity. And when you donate, it feels good.”
That’s Swindell’s ultimate goal: to facilitate a mutually beneficial culture of giving.
“I’m kind of all over the place and love to do everything, and The Hip Humanitarian Project incorporates all my interests,” she explains. “At first, it was a fun, one-time thing, but it felt right and I just had to keep pushing forward; people kept falling into my life who offered advice, and it just happened. Now, I can’t stop.”
A political science major finishing up her last year at UT, Swindell spends lots of time researching social entrepreneurship, and is especially inspired by Toms’ founder Blake Mycoskie. The idea of a charitable organization that fits naturally into our lifestyle, making giving more natural and effortless, drives her development of Hip Humanitarian.
It’s easy in a city like Austin, where so many people are eager to help.
“Just starting an account at the bank, the lady there had five contacts that might help,” smiles Swindell, “everyone knows someone who knows someone, which is great.” Since launching, the non-profit has recruited volunteers who specialize in graphic design and social media — and that helpful bank teller? She’s a web programmer on the side, and is donating time to help Swindell develop an online retail hub.
Swindell’s also working with local retailers and designers to discuss next steps, like the possibility of partnering with local boutiques. She’s also always on the lookout for deserving charities to spotlight.
“We want places where we know they money will go towards actual people and not just building business,” she says. “I just met with Foster Angels; they help raise funds to improve the lives of foster kids here in Austin. The executive director had heard of us and contacted me, and now they’re going to be our next project.”
Hip Humanitarian’s next auction won’t take place until March, but you can follow their blog for updates on the goods they’re getting in and ways you can get involved.
The number one thing you can do? Set aside a few hours this weekend and take a good, hard look at your closet: those Joe’s Jeans you bought about two sizes ago? That YSL scarf that doesn’t match anything else you own? You probably don’t need them. Hip Humanitarian will even pick clothes up from your home, so there’s no excuse not to donate.