Greening Fashion with the Uniform Project

Photo: The Uniform Project

Beyond sustainable fibres and second-hand shopping, one of the most intriguing ways to green your wardrobe is not for the faint of heart.  It’s called the Uniform Project and all it takes is one girl, one dress, boundless creativity and a cause worth fighting for.

In May 2009, Sheena Matheiken decided to wear the same black mini dress for an entire year. Her goal was to cut down on her clothing consumption while fundraising for the Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit that helps to subsidize education costs for underprivileged children in India. What began as a simple exercise in the philosophy of “reduce/reuse/recycle” became an exciting convergence of social media, sustainability and fashion that managed to produce some damn cool outfits.

Sheena’s style ranges from cute schoolgirl (colourful tights, heels, vintage scarves) to the undeniably outrageous (full-length ruffled flamenco skirts), despite the omnipresent black mini dress designed specially for the challenge by Eliza Starbuck. Sometimes the simple A-line dress with a detachable peter pan collar is obscured under blouses or tucked into skirts, but it is nearly impossible to tell that she is wearing the same dress every single day. Matheiken’s ability to create entirely different outfits with the same item of clothing proves the ultimate transformative power of fashion.

As a testament to Matheiken’s enterprising social innovation, the Uniform Project has managed to extend well beyond the one-year mark. The new format of the initiative follows a different young creative woman each month donning the same dress for 30 days in order to raise money for the charity of their choice. One recent well-known participant is Montreal-based Angie Johnson, designer/founder of the label iheartnorwegianwood.

The Uniform Project has managed to raise over $100,000 to date for a number of social causes, all while inspiring a new genre of interactive philanthropy. But equally impressive is Sheena Matheiken’s ability to inspire a new generation of fashion-forward women to do more with their wardrobe while consuming less. The Uniform Project brought fashion out of the realm of fantasy and art, into a catalyst for grassroots social change.

Are you up for the challenge? More information on becoming a part of the Uniform Project is available here.

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