Fashion / Giving Back With Style: When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good

Giving Back With Style: When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good

Fashion Apr 11, 2019

When media personality and noted philanthropist, Joan Kelley Walker, launched her most recent eponymous collection at an exclusive event, she also revealed a much-admired philanthropic connection which made us wonder: who else is doing this? We explore what happens when fashion and philanthropy join forces for good.  

What do you think about when you think of “fashion?”

If I had to guess, my top three-word associations would be these: clothing, models, runways.

But, fashion is more than just pieces of material sewn together stylistically.

In fact, fashion has power and can create impactful educational opportunities for the masses, while eliciting important political and socio-economic changes.

But, how is that possible?

The answer is that fashion can make bold statements both on and off the runway by serving as a pathway for crucial philanthropic work, which brings about awareness on pressing issues and much-needed donations.

So, who is doing what and why?! Check out Anokhi’s top picks of fashion meeting philanthropy below.


Joan Kelley Walker:

Joan Kelley Walker, who wears a number of hats as a media personality, producer, writer, philanthropist, model, wife, mom, and now she is a fashion entrepreneur, with her latest venture, which reinforces that she is more than her stint on the Real Housewives of Toronto. The launch of the Joan Kelley Walker collection (which I was lucky enough to attend) is a melding of Walker’s love for fashion and philanthropy and launches this Fall, with more to come (like outerwear and swimwear) in early October!


When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good
When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good: ANOKHI Media’s President & CEO Raj Girn headed up the panel (left to right: Raj Girn, Joan Kelley Walker, Lisa Clowery, and Sean Kay) for the launch of the Joan Kelley Walker Collection 2018. Photo Credit:


While Walker is no stranger to philanthropy, having done work with World Vision abroad where “philanthropic work [was done] on an international scale [and] a lot of it had to do with poverty, education, clean drinking water, and nutrition.” She even has “a checklist of stuff [she and her husband] want to do internationally” (honestly, how does she find the time to sleep)! On a local level, she was also doing work within York Region by volunteering with United Way for a number of years. However, “[she] wanted to do something nationally, in a really big way.”

And that’s exactly what she’s accomplished: she’s created a line of “real fashion, for real people.” With the collection, she wanted to do something that reflected “her, her personality, and her family. She wanted to do something that showed her love of fashion and her love of helping other people.” More than that, Walker wanted to bring department store products to a wider audience that were affordable (ranging from $20-140), without sacrificing elegance and quality.

But why choose Walmart?

Well, first, scale was an important factor for Walker’s mission to “build a brand that can give back.” From Walmart’s standpoint, Vice President of Merchandising – Home & Apparel, Walmart Canada, Sandra Krsek, recognized that there was a need for “…something new to augment what’s currently on their floor.”

Meanwhile, for Walker, Walmart just made sense. Having come from a small town where having a passion for fashion made her the “odd duck,” Walker felt that having Walmart as a platform for her brand serves as an important outlet for young women, including those who are in the same boat as she was, to give them “access to fashion.”

The collection is currently available online on Walmart Canada. Most importantly though, “for every Joan Kelley Walker item purchased a donation will be made [by Joan Kelley Walker] to the Breakfast Club of Canada.” The Breakfast Club of Canada “…started its mission to nurture the potential and grow healthy students, giving an equal chance of success to all kids, one breakfast at a time.” Just $1 can feed a student per day in Canada, according to Breakfast Club of Canada, where one in five students are likely to not have breakfast in Canadian elementary schools, and it only gets worse in high schools with the stats being one out of two students. That said, even if the collection doesn’t do well after launching this year, Walker will still make a generous donation to ensure that Canadian students are not left without.

As a side note: I have to say that while her intent and initiative is very inclusive, I can attest to the fact that this is absolutely captured in her collection. The pieces are sized realistically and actually look like something you can fit into (sizes range from XS-XXL), are gorgeous, can be transitioned between day and night, accessorized to reflect personal spunk, and the price points make boutique-style fashion available for the average consumer. How fabulous is that?!


When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good
When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good: Seriously though, the swimwear line that’s launching on October 10 will make you want to hit the beach ASAP! Photo Credit:


Rachel Roy:

Rachel Roy was born in California to a Dutch mother and a Bengali father. After attending the Washington Adventist University, she moved to New York where she got her start as a “stylist for magazines and music videos,” according to Fashion Elite. Her flair for fashion began when she was much younger though, as she was often enthralled by Vogue issues. After making the jump to Rocawear as an intern, as reported by Fashion Elite, Roy’s career blossomed and she moved into a role as the “Creative Director of the Women’s and Children’s Division.”

When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good
When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good: Roy has consistently used the strong women surrounding her as an influence for her fashion! Photo Credit:


Roy launched her debut “New York collection in Spring 2005” and things have not slowed down for her since, having worked with the likes of Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, Tyra Banks and more. However, Roy’s brand is more than just fashion, it also has philanthropic ties as the designer, mom, and entrepreneur, is a firm believer in giving back. For example, she has engaged in humanitarian efforts, according to LinkedIn, such as her “…work with OrphanAid Africa” and launched a “…the Kindness Is Always Fashionable charitable platform which creates sustainable employment opportunity for Third World artisans.” Most importantly, Roy’s endeavours are typically centred around finding ways to empower “…women and children.”


When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good
When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good: This gorgeous basket was featured in Roy’s Gifts For Good Collection in 2016! Photo Credit:


That said, while Roy has spearheaded campaigns to raise awareness for a number of philanthropic causes, one in particular that stands out was the Gifts for Good collection in 2016 where she combined fashion with her humanitarian efforts. The collection gave jobs to workers in Ghana, who created the pieces and needed work, and 20% of the revenue from sales was given the Rescue Foundation. According to Rachel Roy, “the Rescue Foundation is a non-profit that aids in the rescue and rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking. They act as the “lifeguard of the trafficked survivor” for girls from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal that are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation in India.”

The work that Roy is doing is truly invaluable and so powerful for the plight of women throughout the world!

C&A Foundation:

Taking a different spin on philanthropy and fashion, let’s look at the C&A Foundation, which is a “corporate foundation, affiliated [with] global retailer C&A.” The C&A Foundation is focused on the garment industry and effecting change within it.

In particular, one of their recent initiatives in 2016, saw C&A Foundation, Gender at Work, and the Global Fund for Women together. According to the Global Fund for Women, “Gender at Work is a transnational network of individuals and organizations that build knowledge and practice to end discrimination against women and advance cultures of equality.” Meanwhile, “Global Fund for Women is one of the world’s leading foundations for gender equality, standing up for the human rights of women and girls. It campaigns for zero violence, economic and political empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.”


When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good
When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good: Female garment workers face difficult times in the industry, including violence. Photo Credit:


As of 2016, the apparel industry was made up of approximately 80% of females, worldwide. As such, the three organizations came together to create an ambitious plan-of-action to put a stop to the “…gender-based violence and empower female garment workers in South Asia,” or more specifically “Bangladesh, India, [and] Myanmar,” according to Inside Philanthropy. In addition, they will work on educating women about their rights, the inequalities of the system, and how to stand up for themselves, which will ultimately contribute to a disruption of the norm and bring about “systemic change.” To bring about these changes, the C&A Foundation had “…pledged $1.5 million (euro) to support the initiative’s launch.”

Meanwhile, the C&A Foundation has also made a contribution of $2.74 million (USD) to The Freedom Fund. The Freedom Fund identifies ‘hotspots’ where slavery is taking place and “invest[s] in the most effective frontline efforts to eradicate [it in] countries and sectors where it is most prevalent.” The current funding that they’ve received from the C&A Foundation will be used in ‘hotspot,’ Tamil Nadu, in southern India, where they will tackle the “…forced and bonded labour in the textile industry.”


When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good
When Fashion And Philanthropy Join Forces For Good: This is one of the many (far too young) faces of modern day slavery that the garment industry is engaging in! Photo Credit:


According to the C&A Foundation, efforts in the area will include educating young women and the general community within vulnerable communities about the textile industry, as many of them are often falsely enticed by employers. They will also work at a grassroots level to effect change for workers rights and to teach new skills in order to shift the need to turn to the textile industry.

The Takeaway: 

While it’s bittersweet to know that there are many awful things happening throughout the world, it is exciting to know that people and corporations are using their stature and talent for philanthropic purposes that can make a real difference.

So, here’s my takeaway: Get to know what you’re buying and pay attention to what brands stand for and where the proceeds of purchases are going. If you have to have a new outfit or pair of shoes anyway, you might as well make sure your hard-earned dollars go a little further for a good cause, don’t you think?!


Main Image Photo Credit:

Devika Goberdhan

Devika Goberdhan


Devika (@goberdhan.devika) is an MA graduate who specialized in Political Science at York University. Her passion and research throughout her graduate studies pushed her to learn about and unpack hot button issues. Thus, since starting ANOKHI in 2016, she has written extensively about many challengi...


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