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Fashionable charity does its part for ethical fashion

Fashionable charity does its part for ethical fashion

The term ‘ethical’ is making arguably unprecedented headlines this year in both the dairy farming industry and, more recently, the clothing industry. ‘Ethical fashion’ is more than just a catch-phrase and has perhaps given us insight to where our garments come from --we know of the ‘ethical manufacture’ of clothing -- but what about their ‘ethical disposal’?

Clothing, like all commodities, has a lifecycle and at Dress for Success Auckland (DfSA) they’re passionate about the ethical disposal of donated clothing. This charity changes the lives of about 1500 women and their families each year by providing clothing, styling, confidence and support for women seeking employment.

So where does that clothing come from?

A ‘ding’ of the doorbell at DfSA’s showroom usually announces the arrival of one of their valued clients, volunteers, or a generous clothing donation of gently-worn clothing which accounts for about 70% of their showroom attire. A clothing donation is collected by their fabulous volunteers and taken into their sorting area where the magic begins. Clothing is carefully sorted into four categories according to its quality and suitability. Clothing that is deemed work appropriate is steamed or ironed and sorted into size and type of clothing ready for fittings. Such clothing may well include a pair of Yves St Laurent trousers or other designer items, depending on what’s been donated -- as long as they’re work appropriate, they go to clients for interviews. Stiletto-heeled shoes and over-the-top designer labels make their way into storage for Designer Sales, and casual clothing that’s in good nick gets sold at their popular Grab-a-Bag sales – a great way not only to help DfSA’s clients fill their wardrobes with affordable quality clothing, but also clears stock and generates a small revenue for the charity thereby aiding in their ethical disposal of clothing. Any clothing that doesn’t make the mark for DfSA’s showroom floor or sales gets donated on to other charitable organisations such as the Salvation Army and Women’s Refuge. Evening and cocktail dresses make their way to ‘Cinderella’s Project’ for another life as a young woman’s school ballgown, and second-hand bras get distributed to needy women through 'Project Uplift'.

That might be where DfSA’s ethical clothing cycle ends, but not where their service ends. Dressings are only one tier of the service DfSA provides to women: their Women’s Resource Centre provides clients with further career development tools to enable them to find employment, and their Professional Women's Group provides networking and support opportunities for working women to ensure they sustain employment. In order to help empower their clients through these wrap-around programmes, DfSA needs more than just clothing donations: they need financial support to keep their operations going. This month they are appealing for donations from the public with their May I help? Campaign.

So ask yourself ‘May I Help?’ Please visit for more details on how you can help.


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