Raising the Roof, a Canadian homelessness prevention organization, worked with agency Courage to create Streetswear by RTR, an awareness campaign masquerading as a fashion line.
Honestly, we haven't been this excited about a clothing collection in a while.
The Streetswear collection features a parka that doubles as a winter coat and sleeping bag, cargo pants that enable the inclusion of cardboard lining for hard sleeping, a waterproof poncho that can be attached to subway grates to form a heated tent, "Kevlar Kicks'' that use carbon fiber and Kevlar to protect kids from broken glass and needles on the ground … and a Tap-Me Teddy, which accepts card-tapped payments. This last is to facilitate panhandling in an increasingly cashless society.
It's cool and compellingly presented. We'd love a poncho-tent combo, which is probably a bigger indication of the weird places this world is taking us. But of course, as the ad's end reminds us, this collection doesn't really exist. Kid homelessness shouldn't exist.
"The picture of homelessness in Canada has led to apathy across our communities. To inspire action with this campaign, we knew we had to chart a different course that would force people to pay attention," says Tom Kenny, chief strategy officer of Courage. "Up to 7,000 children across Canada will be sleeping on the street tonight searching for safety. In fact, through our research, we found that 20 percent of the homeless population in Canada are kids, and so to break perceptions and drive impact, we chose that as our focus for this year's campaign."
The streetwear-survival elements also play on a trend in fashion, made popular by the dystopian positioning proffered by luxury brands like Balenciaga. Some months ago, the Salvation Army in the Netherlands played on the latter brand's distressed Paris Sneaker collection, likewise to raise money and awareness for the homeless.
"For years, the term 'homeless chic' has been used to describe fashion collections or an emerging trend, whether it be garbage bags sold for thousands of dollars or high-end clothing items held together with duct tape. Ultimately these trends are appropriating a growing epidemic that impacts millions of people," says Hemal Dhanjee, Courage's associate creative director.
The fictional Streetswear line was impressively prototyped by Toronto-based designers Lauren Novak and Caitlin Wright. Novak is the designer for Remark by Lauren, which sells unique pieces made from pre-existing materials. Wright is a costume designer and wardrobe stylist who has worked with artists like Drake, DJ Khaled and the Arkells. She also designs for Kyshe, which specializes in limited-run vintage items.
The Streetswear campaign debuted Nov. 11 at Fashion Art Toronto. Over that period, the city's longest-running fashion week, 1 in 100 youth will be homeless. The ad was shot by director Justin Abernathy, and will be supported by social, digital campaigns, outdoor work seeking donations, and a microsite with paid media. In addition to raising awareness, viewers are encouraged to buy a Raising the Roof toque for $25 to help end homelessness in Canada.
"For over 25 years, the Raising the Roof Toque Campaign has supported homelessness prevention programs across Canada—raising over $9 million in support for our 200 partner agencies," says Marc Soberano, Raising the Roof's executive director. "Our goal is to ensure all people in Canada have access to a safe, stable home and the support they need to achieve their potential."
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