I love what I do.
But there are days I look to my left or right and wonder if what I do is enough.
Am I making a real difference?
For decades, the fashion industry — depending on whom you ask — has either battled or embraced its reputation of being superficial, inconsequential, trend-obsessed and even faddish.
But as a fashion and media practitioner, I received a confirmation this weekend that I am compelled to share: Fashion is important. Fashion is good. Fashion transforms lives.
We need fashion.
I saw that validation in the face of a little girl from a small archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean — who is only two months removed from surviving a catastrophic natural disaster — flashing a hope-filled smile in a purple T-shirt emblazoned with gold letters declaring “Girls Can Change the World.”
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She and hundreds of others from my native country, The Bahamas, had lined up for blocks for … fashion.
Just two months after Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane on record to have hit the Bahamas, ravaged homes, claimed lives and gutted local hospitals, people waited hours for hope that springs eternal.
They waited for the volunteers and organizers from the charity Delivering Good, who had, as they’ve tirelessly done for 30 years, made calls and big asks to major footwear and apparel brands to donate fashion — and hope.
New clothes, new shoes, new socks and backpacks.
After a harrowing few nights in early September during which I sat in bed worried sick about whether my own family had survived Dorian’s wrath, I received two critical phone calls: one from Stacy Berns, Berns Communications Group president and Delivering Good board member, and another, from Delivering Good president and CEO Lisa Gurwitch. (Notably, my company, Penske Media Corp., and colleagues also stepped in to make significant contributions to my family, in particular, as well as to larger relief efforts.)
“We want to help.”
And help they did.
Stacy and Lisa as well as Andrea Weiss, Delivering Good chair; Rita Polidori O’Brien, VP of marketing, licensing and communications at United Legwear & Apparel Co.; and Taylor Gray, treasurer and VP of The Countess Moira Charitable Foundation, traveled to the Bahamas this weekend to dole out optimism and promise in the form of fashion.
Since its inception, Delivering Good has provided upwards of $2 billion in new products to aid individuals, children and families impacted by disaster and poverty. In 2018 alone, the charity distributed more than 11 million units of new products, valued at over $180 million, to those in need.
Over the weekend, the organization provided $1.5 million in new footwear, apparel and other fashion products to both Bahamian islands, Freeport and Abaco, impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
There is a scientific reason why this matters: In 2012, cognitive psychologists Hajo Adam and Adam Galinksy from Northwestern University coined the term, “enclothed cognition,” which refers to “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.”
The researchers found that, “Clothes can have profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers.”
The truth is, the people of The Bahamas — my dear family included — have a long road ahead of them. There is a lot that has to be rebuilt. There will be more tough days to come.
They’ll need more building supplies, medical aid (physical and psychological), food and clean water.
But, I’d argue that what they’ll need most is hope.
And fashion does that.
Fashion did that.