Audrey Huynh calls Clothes for Change, a student-led clothing drive for women’s groups, one of her “light-bulb moments.”
The 15-year-old Myers Park High School sophomore said it won’t be her last.
“Since middle school I had been looking for a way to truly make an impact on my community, specifically with women, and I wasn’t sure how I would do it,” she said. “Over the summer, I was lying in bed and all of a sudden I knew what I wanted to do. Clothes for Change combines so many things I am passionate about – leadership, female empowerment, fashion, of course, and so much more.”
Huynh’s summer brainstorm has turned into more than 40 young women at Myers Park High working this fall on a variety of projects – from planning fashion shows to “re-fashioning” damaged clothing to promoting upcoming events – as a way to make a difference in the community.
The group is recognized as a club at school, but members prefer to think of themselves as an organization with different teams for administration, leadership, publicity, events, and style and design.
“I wanted to keep the group relatively small, as it is a weekly time commitment, and I want every member to be actively involved in what we do,” said Huynh. “There are so many charity clubs and organizations that work to make a difference, but have trouble executing that direct impact.
“I don’t want Clothes for Change to be one of them. I don’t want us to be just a group of girls who collect clothes. I want to be a group of young female leaders that are helping women around the world create positive change in their own communities.”
To attain that goal, Clothes for Change is attacking clothing needs in a variety of ways.
Foremost is an ongoing clothing drive that runs through November. The group is asking for donations of women’s clothing for all ages, and has placed donation bins at the front offices of several schools, churches and dance studios.
Students ask that clothing be in “decent” condition and dropped off in a sturdy bag.
The club will take all donations – including some from retailers and consignment shops – and run discount sales and fashion shows throughout Charlotte. That’s where the fashion/style and event leaders in the club take over.
Many times, Huynh said, the group finds clothing that is slightly outdated or damaged. She turns to Sophie Chien and others who sew to create fashion makeovers to update a look or repair slight damage. Huynh says its not uncommon to find a great dress with damaged sleeves and see the group remove sleeves and add a belt and two patch pockets for a different look.
Clothes for Change is planning the first fashion show for Dec. 7 at The Cornwall Center at Myers Park Baptist Church.
Proceeds from will go “to organizations around the world that encourage women to pursue economic independence and promote positive change in their communities,” says Huynh. She said the first groups being considered include Strands of Hope, which provides resources for HIV-positive women in Kenya to create jewelry to support their families, and MADRE, which works with women who have been victims of abuse and rape in Haiti.
All leftover clothes from any event or fashion show will go to Charlotte-area women’s shelters. The first recipient of donated clothing will be Crisis Assistance Ministries.
Huynh said members of Clothes for Change see themselves differently from other clothing drives, as they work hard to gain leadership skills, fashion and sewing know-how and publicity and promotions experience.
“In reality, we are just a group of motivated, inspired high school girls who all believe in our abilities to make a difference in the community and are passionate about doing so,” she said.