Fashion Project is currently in session at Techstars in Boston. Their product lets you donate your high-end clothes, shoes and accessories through their website to the charity of your choice. You can also shop for coveted designer items knowing the majority of the proceeds will go to a great cause. Anna Palmer, co-founder and CEO, tells us where it all began.
Q: Fashion Project is the lovechild of an idea you had with your co-founder, Christine Rizk, when you met in school. Tell me about your lightbulb moment.
A: Christine was the first person I met at Harvard Law School. We attended a talk about taxes one day and afterward couldn’t stop talking about how $13B worth of clothes are donated every single year in America. I had started two non-profits before, one in high school and one in college. Christine had started one in high school as well. It made total sense to begin working together.
Q: What do you say to the skeptics who are wary of fashion-oriented startups?
A: That even though fashion is a major industry, we aren’t in a noisy space. There’s no real model like this; we have built a company that’s highly profitable and benefits people in need. We have proved that it works because customers are fascinated with how simple the process is. We make finding donors and giving to charity a seamless experience.
Q: I would imagine that working so closely with charities and donors, you have seen some special moments. Can you share any of those with us?
A: Sure. Something really sweet just happened recently. After the ‘donate’ button in the website, we had a donor tell us all about how she was honoring her mom through the American Cancer Society. She gave us this personal look into her life and told us stories about how when she was a kid, her mom would sing in the car because the radio was broken. Now all of these intimate stories are attached to the items she’s giving because we have tagged them as such and others can read it. This means you know what you’re buying, who you want the payment to benefit, and the story behind it.
Q: Who is on board with Fashion Project?
A: We have a lot of really great non-profit partners behind us. We have recently signed up the Christopher Reeve Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis Foundation. We now know our model works so we’re focused on testing it well. We’re proving to the world that we can get the volume of inventory taken care of at no cost to the donor, incentivizing people to donate again and again.