When Cassandra Weinman ’11 graduated with a journalism degree, she knew she wanted to help make the world a better place. And she has — not through words, but through clothes. Brand Together, the Los Angeles nonprofit Weinman created with friends, takes what she calls “a luxury twist on the Goodwill business model” by gathering donations of high-end clothing and accessories — think Gucci handbags and Prada skirts — and selling them to raise funds for charities.
As Weinman points out, many people wear only a fraction of the clothing they own. The rest of those clothes just take up space. That is especially true of high-ticket luxury items, particularly after they’ve been offered to celebrities at glitzy events. “Most of the people who go to the Oscars and the gifting suite walk away with $50,000 in clothing and accessories,” Weinman says. Often such items will be worn very little, if at all.
Brand Together donors appreciate that their elegant gifts are going to a good cause. The company works with charities from Step Up and The Movember Foundation to City of Hope and Heifer International in relationships that are crucial to Brand Together’s business model. “People are confident, when we take their $2,000 handbag,” Weinman says, “that we’re going to do something right with it.” To control costs, donated clothing is sold through eBay and other Internet marketplaces.
Getting Brand Together off the ground forced Weinman and the other founders to venture beyond their comfort zones. “If your dreams don’t scare you,” she says, “you’re not thinking big enough. I’m scared all the time, which I think is good.”
It helps when it’s for a good cause. “After agriculture and oil, the fashion industry is the world’s largest polluter,” she says. “I want to change that; I want people to think twice about what they’re buying. Helping charities by working with the things we love is a win-win.”