A new wave of “giveback” apparel companies are stylishly signaling that our purchases have helped the less fortunate. Here are three local companies that embody the trend.
Love Your Melon
What started as a business-class project in 2012 turned into a for-profit company with a charitable component. University of St. Thomas students Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller traveled to college campuses around the country selling cotton-knit beanies to students and using the proceeds to donate hats to pediatric cancer patients, who often lose their hair during treatment.
Today, the Minneapolis company has Campus Crew volunteers who dress as superheroes to give away hats at hospitals and offer young cancer patients a personalized “best day ever,” with a trip to the zoo or the gift of a Barbie Dreamhouse. Celebrities including Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber have helped spread the word on social media.
The expansive product line now includes clothing, blankets and totes and accessories. The company also gives 50 percent of its profits to pediatric cancer research and patient support.
Since 2016, Minneapolis-based Hippy Feet has donated 20,000 pairs of socks to people experiencing homelessness. But founder Michael Mader now feels the buy one/give one model is “a little played out,” so he’s shifting the focus to assisting homeless youths through employment.
“Donating socks is addressing a symptom, but it doesn’t do anything to actually make a difference in creating opportunities for somebody who is homeless to get back on their own feet,” he said.
Hippy Feet offers regular “pop-up” employment at drop-in centers and homeless shelters, paying teens $10 an hour to package the colorful socks. It also partnered with a local nonprofit to give several young people regular part-time work doing embroidery and screen printing.
Minneapolis author Nora McInerny started Still Kickin after her husband, Aaron Purmort, died in 2014 at age 35, leaving her to raise their young son.
Purmort had been wearing a thrifted T-shirt that said “Still Kickin” when he had the seizure that led to his brain cancer diagnosis. So McInerny decided to sell apparel with the same slogan. Each month the nonprofit chooses someone experiencing hardship — a medical emergency, losing a loved one to suicide — and gives an unrestricted grant of about $4,500. It has donated more than $160,000 since 2015.
McInerny said the clothing is a way for wearers to acknowledge publicly that they know what it’s like to go through tough times: “I do think wearing the shirt is like saying, ‘I’m a person that you can walk up to and talk to.’ ”