In Mumbai and Delhi, several fashion designers are making their radical politics known on the runway, while in the fashion capital of New York City, one Indian woman is drawing attention to the need for quality education for children who live in the slums of her homeland with one little black dress. Sheena Matheiken, founder and creative director of The Uniform Project, has come up with an interesting way to simultaneously raise money for a Mumbai-based NGO, build awareness about environmentalism and consumer waste, and advocate global social awareness: “wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion.”
The idea sprung from Matheiken’s childhood in India where wearing the same clothes daily is not an uncommon occurrence for the poor and where girls and boys in uniform-mandatory public schools find a way to individualize their common threads with bangles, bindis, and sneakers. Instead of simply giving herself a creative challenge, Matheiken wanted her actions to also be meaningful to others. So, earlier this year she teamed up with her friend and designer Eliza Starbuck to creatively fashion 365 outfits out of one dress pattern using vintage, thrifted, hand-me-down, and handmade items. The Uniform Project launched in May, and is being tracked daily on the web through photographs and a detailed description of the source of every item used to compose each day’s outfit. The pair are still in the process of collecting pieces to incorporate into their work-in-progress, which has hit the road to spread its message in London this month and seeks “eco-designers, wearable technologists, madminds” to collaborate with on future ensembles
Now that you’ve got the fashion down, you’re probably wondering about fundraising. That’s the simple part. The cost of sending a child to school in India for one year is $360, and The Uniform Project asks their web visitors to make a monetary donation through Paypal to the Akanksha Foundation, the project’s sole beneficiary. As of this writing, Matheiken and Starbuck have raised $12,456. Not bad for a project whose only PR has been viral, right? They are also planning a few events in New York and an Ebay auction will be held to sell the previously used accessories. So if you peep some cute shoes, hat, sunglasses, or jewelry when you’re looking through the pictures, you might just have a chance shell out a few bucks in order to claim them as your own.
For those who want to be a part of this artistic crafts(wo)manship, The Uniform Project is in need of accessories for layering if Matheiken is to survive the New England winter.