Every Day is Giving Tuesday

Tis the season to give, so why is charity limited to Tuesday?

If you made it through the celebrations of consumption known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, then you may have looked up from your Secret Santa wish list long enough to notice yesterday was Giving Tuesday. In the ever-increasingly, long lead-up to Christmas, Giving Tuesday stands as a single day solely dedicated to charity and selflessness. 

How quaint! A whole 24 hours to redirect our excessive consumerism toward those in need.

If this is the season of giving, why is the notion of selfless giving relegated to only one day? Demonstrating care for other people’s social well-being – the very definition of charity – could (ahem, should) be a daily act, not one day’s efforts. The fact is, we’ll shell out more for wrapping paper and cards than most parents can afford to spend on presents for their kids. That said, there are endless ways to make someone’s day, so don’t get caught up in the monetary amount of your charity. A simple pay-it-forward act of kindness goes a long way this time of year.

Here are a few ideas ranging from zero to $$$ to add some everyday philanthropy (#filanthropy) to your holiday season. Have a favourite way to give back during the holidays? Share in the comments below.

Free & Cheap

Give the gift of encouragement. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation welcomes gifts of “encouraging thought” to share with the patients and clients who rely on CAMH every day. On your lunch break, why not tap out a few bon mots to remind someone that life is worth living and that recovery is possible? 

Socks for Souls has partnered with Indie88 and on-air talent Josie Dye to collect thousands of socks for Toronto’s Homeless community. Every $1 donated can purchase two pairs of socks, so by skipping your afternoon oat milk latte you could gift socks to 10 people.

$50 or less

After scoring a pair of discounted shoes on Black Friday, don’t just recycle the shoebox. Consider putting together a box of goodies for a woman struggling with homelessness. The Shoebox Project distributes gift-filled Shoeboxes to women living in shelters across Canada, the United States, and the UK. Fill it with small items designed to comfort and pamper a woman who has been displaced from their homes and estranged from their families.

Big Spender

Second Harvest hosts a holiday auction with over 100 incredible gifts for your friends and family. Proceeds support Second Harvest’s food rescue program, where fresh, perishable food is diverted to their network of over 384 social service agencies. The items include everything from travel to cooking classes, toys to sports tickets. But hurry, the auction closes at 10:00 am (EST) on Monday December 9, 2019!

Yellow Part Two

Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project 2003
Ólafur Elíasson, The Weather Project, 2003; installation view, Tate Modern, London, 2003; photo by Andrew Dunkley & Markus Leith

This is a continuation of Yellow Part One.

My latest obsession with the colour yellow continues in Netflix’ latest season of Abstract: The Art of Design. This series dives deep into the creative process of well, creative people. Episode one features Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Elíasson. Elíasson is a joy to watch; his immersive installations mesmerize, even from the perspective of my tiny tv. Their massive scale and innovation must be astonishing to witness in person. Imagine my delight to see the sunny yellow colour play a central figure in some of Eliasson’s most famous work. About halfway through the yellow sunflower pops back into my consciousness and onto the screen – and as Eliasson’s second arc – with Little Sun.

Olafur Eliasson Little Sun
Ólafur Elíasson with his design, Little Sun, photo by Tomas Gislason

Little Sun started with an Eliasson and his team’s idea to bring affordable, clean energy solutions to the 1.2 billion people in the world who don’t have access to an electrical grid. It became a social business spreading clean, affordable solar energy around the globe. It’s a work of art that works in life.

This high quality, portable solar lamp is the perfect accessory for the garden, patio and weekend camping trip. But adorable practicality isn’t why I really love it. For every Little Sun sold, one goes to their partners in rural Africa, where they train local sales agents and bring solar energy to those who need it most. Unfortunately, supporting this social enterprise from Canada is challenging – the website only ships to the U.S. and the only local retailer listed is the Royal Ontario Museum, who claims to never have stocked the item in the first place. I’d like to buy Little Suns for friends and family this Christmas, so I’ll keep you posted of my search.

How to Wear a Revolution


Face it, fashion isn’t always pretty. The industry has a long list of atrocities to contend with, from the unethical treatment of workers and animals to environmental concerns around industrial waste and sustaining overtaxed resources.

This month marks the two year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapse where 1,133 workers lost their lives and over 2,500 were injured.  In response to the tragedy, a Fashion Revolution was born. This global, grassroots campaign aims to remind us of the continued social and environmental dangers lurking in our fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution wants you to find out who made your clothes — from who spun the threads, to who sewed them together, to who grew the cotton in the first place. On April 24th, you can join the Fashion Revolution by taking a selfie showing your label. You could turn your clothes inside out to make more of a statement.

Tag @fash_rev and the brand on social media and ask #whomademyclothes?

Fashion Rev chain

Making squares for the Fashion Revolution chain

Want to join the revolution close to home? The Toronto-based Fashion Takes Action has been holding sew-ins with Ontario schools to create a literal fabric chain that will later be displayed in events and a possible museum installation. Students have been collecting used clothing and fabric, which they have then cut into squares to sew together and form the chain. The chain of fabric is both symbolic for the supply chain and acts as a petition encouraging transparency in the fashion industry. Swing by the public sew-in this Friday at OCAD’s main lobby (more on the event here) from 10am – 2pm.


Emerging Canadian designer Laura Siegel takes on the supply chain issues in TRACEABLE, a new documentary movie airing this Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, Bravo, M3, and E!. The doc connects viewers to the individuals and communities involved in designing and producing garments, illuminating the harsh realities that are woven into the fashion industry. Written, directed, and produced by first-time filmmaker, Ontario’s Jennifer Sharpe, TRACEABLE follows Siegel as she develops her 2013 Fall/Winter collection using ethical and transparent practices.


Meanwhile some retailers and designers are helping build global communities through fashion. Last year Holt Renfrew unveiled H Project, a shop-in-shop designed to highlight and support different cultures, crafts and artisans from around the world. After a successful debut with UNCRATE India, this month they launched UNCRATE Africa with exclusive collections from over 22 renowned brands, including Dannijo, Stella Jean, FEED Africa, Indego Africa, Me to We, Otago, Kiya Kenya and Chantecaille.

Vancouver-based Obakki is also one of the participating brands. Obakki’s founder Treana Peake is the driving force behind the label and the Obakki Foundation, Obakki’s philanthropic counterpart. The charity focuses on providing clean water and education in Africa. The clothing label absorbs all the administrative fees of the charity, allowing 100% of Obakki Foundation’s public donations to go directly to its charitable initiatives. And Peake’s work with the foundation seems to drive the inspiration behind her Obakki collections.


Treane Peake in Cameroon, Africa with her Obakki Foundation

You don’t have to look far to find brands with a sustainable, ethical footprint, but you do have to look. Uniikii, a Canadian-based online retailer, features apparel, accessories and housewares from “partners who are socially conscious, environmentally responsible and dedicated to ethical manufacturing processes.” A pair of handmade felt boots that takes eight days to make? Why not. That’s a much nicer story than your cotton t-shirt using 2,700 litres of water before you even buy it.

Speaking of water, let’s get really real. California’s apparel industry is under a serious threat from the current drought. According to the Wall Street Journal, Southern California produces 75% of the high-end denim in the U.S. that is sold world-wide. Water is a key component in the various steps of the processing and repeated washing with stones, or bleaching and dyeing that create that “distressed” vintage look.

We are on borrowed time on this planet. The choices you make as a consumer have a butterfly effect on the rest of the supply chain. If you’re not yet considering where and how your clothes are made, isn’t it time to start?

Ungaro’s Lunch with Margaret & George

As fashion and fundraising go together like a hand in glove, it’s no surprise we’re tripping over fashion fundraisers in Toronto. But it’s not every day we’re treated to a megawatt caliber designer in the course of charitable giving.

Lunch with Margaret & George is that event. Lisa and George Corbo, the power couple behind one of the top boutiques in the city, George C, conjured up the idea for the event after a personal scare with cancer. When Emmannuel Gattuso, a customer and good friend of the Corbos, offered to put her philanthropic enthusiasm behind it, well – let there be lunch!

Coined Lunch with Margaret and George, the idea was simple: showcase a single designer’s collection during an unforgettable afternoon lunch. Make it intimate. Make it impactful. Make some money for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.

I was fortunate to work closely on the event in its inaugural year with Giles Deacon. This year’s third annual event featured Emanuel Ungaro at the Art Gallery of Ontario. After a gorgeous lunch, guests were treated to Ungaro’s spring collection in a stunning display through the AGO’s Walker Court.

All photos by George Pimentel.

Who Makes Your Clothes?

There’s been a revolution bubbling underneath up through fashion week runways and retail announcements. Can you feel it?

It has to do with something we’ve forgotten — that fashion is less about things than it is about ideas. This time last year, more than 1,100 people were killed and over 2,500 injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And since? What has changed? What have you changed?

Fashion by its very nature requires us to challenge the status quo. The Rana Plaza tragedy was a stark reminder of that. Today’s status quo demands a more empathetic, less materialistic approach to fashion. Period. When did we stop appreciating the creative process? Stop valuing the artistic side of fashion? When did we decide to compromise basic 
human life for something to wear? When did Wall Street start calling the shots on what we buy, when, and for how much?

Forget it – those are complicated questions to which the answer does not matter right now. What does matter is life, liberty and the pursuit of individuality of fashion. This goes for everyone. Those who buy, sell, design and sew the fashions on our backs. The pace of governments and industrial change is slow. But your ability to make a decision is not.

People have literally died for the shirt on your back, and until this story gets as real as a Pharrell video, I say FUCK YOU status quo! There’s no excuse for turning a blind eye. 

Fashion Revolution is an organization with lofty ideas of impacting things like working conditions, environmental impact and fair trade. Join the Fashion Revolution here or on Facebook and Twitter.

Purge before you Splurge at Jonathan+Olivia

Like most people, I spring clean in April. And I mean, I all out clean. Clean out the closet. Detail the car. Purge my computer files. See the dentist. Last night I gave a pile of clothes I no longer wear to a girlfriend, but I saved a few key pieces for Jonathan+Olivia‘s THIS IS WEST QUEEN WEST – SOS, a clothing drive in aid of CAMH.
From April 22 to 28, Jonathan+Olivia are collecting items — think nice things you don’t wear any more — to provide appropriate attire for the patients of CAMH as part of the Suits Me Fine Boutique program. The CAMH Suits Me Fine Boutqiue provides patients with clothing to wear during their treatment, or for job interviews post treatment. Many patients are challenged by strained financial resources, job loss or homelessness and are not able to afford clothing and essentials. Clothing is also provided by the boutique to patients who are admitted with limited clothing, such as those who come by ambulance or those who are coming through the criminal justice system.

 As a thank you for your kindness, anyone donating and making a purchase at J+O during the drive can enjoy a 10% discount to splurge on something new during the week of the clothing drive. Don’t try to bring in tattered, soiled or unsightly items, that would just be rude. 

You can track donations on J+O’s Instagram page using the hashtag #closetangel. As well, they’ll showcase the donated clothes in a special window installation throughout the week, which grows bigger and bigger as more people join the cause.

Fifty Shades of Pink

Last week I hit the recently renovated Arcadian Court for a rather unusual lunchtime event, the 9th annual White Cashmere Couture for the Cure show. The event pairs designers up with the task of creating fabulousness out of seemingly endless reams of pink and white bathroom tissue. 

The White Cashmere Collection 2012 stars 15 top Canadian designers who crafted runway gowns and accessories 100% pure, soft and luxurious Cashmere Bathroom Tissue. This year one of my clients, MMCrystal, took part, bringing her Swarovski crystal-magic to a few bathroom tissue accessories. After snacking on pink popcorn in the lobby, we settled into seats laden with pink gift bags. The show opened with a some candy-coloured floss acrobatics. Check out the full Cashmere photo stream here.

MMCrystal boa & Rod Philpott dress
Even the shoes were bathroom tissued!
Michelle Merizzi of MMCrystal with Rod Philpott of Rodney Philpott Designs

The runway show is just one part of the fundraiser in support of The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Check out photos of the Cashmere BT Couture collection at Facebook.com/Cashmere and vote for your favorite design. Cashmere will donate $1 to The Foundation for every vote, up to $10,000, in the winning designer’s name. Plus, voters will be entered in a draw to win one of four $2,500 shopping sprees. Voting is open from September 19 through November 19, 2012.