Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Looking good, feeling great

Clothing donation program lends a hand to recent immigrants

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I've written often about how fashion and philanthropy go hand-in-hand. From fashion show fundraisers for local non-profits to silent auctions of high-end brands that raise money for charities -- fashion for a cause is all the rage among the style-conscious.

But admittedly, one thing I haven't really focused on at all is the act of stylish garment donation.

I'm well aware of initiatives such as gowns for grads -- a donation drive where gently-used prom and cocktail dresses are provided to graduates who may not have the financial means to purchase a dress. I had no clue about a partnership between city high-end consignment shop Redeemed and the English as a Second/Additional Language program at Red River College.

"Most of our students are recent immigrants or refugees," explains instructor Maria Pol. "Many of them don't have the appropriate clothing to wear for job interviews or work placements, and this partnership helps them build their work wardrobe."

As part of the partnership, Redeemed donates good-quality, name-brand suits, dresses, tops, skirts, dress pants, shoes and accessories to students to help them dress for success.

"I'm well aware that there are many women who are new to this country who are embarking on a new career and this was something little we can do to help because in many cases the clothes do matter," says Redeemed owner Allyson Linklater.

The brands donated to the EAL/ESL program run the gamut from Gap to Gucci and pretty much everything else in between. According to Pol, students who benefit from the donation are ecstatic when garment day comes around -- twice a year to accommodate the seasons.

"The students can't believe the program and that the clothing is all free," says Pol. "They come from cultures where you have to pay for everything and many of these brands would never be affordable, so this really makes a big impact."

The program was initially started by an EAL/ESL student from Brazil who was on a work placement at Redeemed and who thought it would be a great idea to help her fellow classmates dress for the season.

"She was worried about them being chilly," Linklater says with a laugh, adding that several winter coats were donated to the class that year.

Got a suggestion for a future column or a fashion trend worth following?

Email Connie Tamoto at connietamotofashion@hotmail.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 D13

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