Fashion Week in New York just wrapped up, leaving this writer envious that he was three time zones away. Recycled, up-cycled, down-cycled, and eco-friendly fashion had its own shows in Chelsea, some of it wearable, much of it couture and way out there, sometimes making statements to raise awareness, and most of it fun. Meanwhile, two up-and-coming entrepreneurs made an appearance at various venues, promoting their very young company that takes fuses conscious consumerism with social consciousness.
Palindrome Apparel, founded by Jared Shahid and James Reilly, will donate 20% of all retail revenue to non profit organizations. The company is not the first to donate a portion of its profits to charities or NGOs. But where Palindrome sets itself apart from other apparel firms is its “one palindrome : one cause” model, which partners a non-profit with a corresponded designer t-shirt.
For now Palindrome offers three designs, each of which is matched to three non-profit organizations:
- Carbon Free Girl: Led by Leilani Münter, one of the world’s top-ranked woman race car drivers, Carbon Free Girl advocates clean technology, alternative fuel vehicles, and rain forest preservation. Münter herself adopts an acre of rainforest for each race she runs.
- Yes To Seed Fund: The non-profit affiliate of Yes To Carrots, the skin care line that features organic ingredients and paraben-free additives, this organization offers grants to schools and community groups to plant gardens and improve nutritional programs.
- Louisiana Wildlife Federation: Advocating the preservation of wildlife resources in the Bayou State since 1940, the LWF is currently at the forefront of the BP spill cleanup operation.
Each of these non-profits deserves funds for noble reasons, and Palindrome’s selection of t-shirts could offer more excitements as more organizations find out about this young and dynamic venture. Some challenges, however, lie ahead for Palindrome.
First, will consumers buy t-shirts for $30 ($36 after shipping and tax) in a slow economy, or would they prefer to donate the entire 30 bucks to the non-profit themselves?
Next, while many of us roll our eyes when huge mega-companies crow that they donate “1% of profits to charity,” Palindrome has set some ambitious goals. Even if the company keystones (doubles the wholesale cost) its pricing like that of many retailers, Palindrome is still promising 20% of its revenues to the non-profits with which it partners–a huge share that is very ambitious. The fact that the company sources domestically-produced American Apparel shirts shows that Palindrome puts its money where its mouth is—whether that excites many to pay $36 for a shirt, even for a fab cause, remains to be seen.
Finally, the causes are indeed worthy, but the designs could use a little panache to attract other consumers to their cause. Perhaps a dabbling in crowdsourcing, as Threadless has succeeded by exciting designers, artists, and consumers, is worth a thought—the current designs do not catch an eye, and could come across as if they promote the Palindrome brand, not the cause.
Nevertheless, Palindrome’s concept could spark much enthusiasm to non-profits and customers who are tired of just buying “stuff”—it will be fun watching new designs and partnerships emerge over the next several months. And these guys are smart and are having fun with this new venture, as their introductory video shows—which is a great combination that any new firm needs if it is going to succeed.