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Ending Homelessness, One Garment at a Time

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By John Cornett

There's a new kid in the town of charitable organizations, trending a fresh and artistic approach to philanthropy appealing to both the humanitarian and fashionista eye. Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross will have to move over for a new company. Its name: KNo Clothing. Their mission: to end homelessness through fashion.

Devised and launched back in the fall of 2010 by two college friends, KNo Clothing -- pronounced "know" clothing -- is a philanthropic organization that produces and sells stylish clothing with one-of-a-kind designs aimed towards a younger demographic, typically college students. Their purpose is to raise money and give back to the homeless community.

"Essentially, our goal is to help end homelessness all together," Anthony Thomas, one of the co-founders of KNo Clothing, said. "A lot of people ignore homelessness and do not recognize the extreme impact that is has on our society, so we worked hard to come up with a concept that would attract people to acknowledge our purpose, buy our products, and spread awareness."

Much of the clothes that are sold at KNo Clothing are simple and mod apparels containing creative and visually alluring designs to convey a strong message regarding homelessness in the community. The collaborative behind Thomas' and his fellow co-founder, Stephen Caldwell's, clothes is designed to reach out, advocate, and educate the public in hopes to bring attention and understanding to the problem.

Jefferson Ellison, a freshman in fashion and textiles management and the editor-in-chief and founder of Pack Fashion, caught site of KNo Clothing's fashion campaign. KNo's platform is very different from that of other companies within its division. "Philanthropic clothing companies have established popularity within the last decade," Ellison said. "KNo's method of product development and marketing is very innovative and smart. It's a great idea when you can come up with a concept that helps people and still ensures you looking cute."

The company also implemented utilization of sustainable and green manufacturing methods -- using reusable and safe materials in the production of their clothes, to express the importance in their belief in "making a difference in every way," the co-founders said.

"We fundamentally want to make a difference, not just by fulfilling our main mission, but also by helping out with the environment and promoting sustainability." Thomas said. "To stay true to that, we manufacture garments that are eco-friendly, made from mostly recycled materials, organic cotton, and safe inks."

KNo Clothing has a very direct method of giving back to the homeless community. The idea behind the project is that 50 percent of the profits made from its sales go directly to their partnering charitable organizations that help to end homelessness. In addition, every purchase made provides someone in need with a brand new article of clothing.

"In our efforts, we try to get a sense of what exactly the people need. We partner with The Bethesda Mission and the 100,000 Homes Campaign, and they provide us with information on what clothing necessities are needed," Thomas said. "Working with 120 communities nationwide today, we find that socks and underwear are what's desired by popular demand."

With all their hard work, they have helped to make an impressive impact on homelessness. A big front in their campaign is helping out with their partner, 100,000 Homes, which is a project that works to get people off the streets and into homes. So far, according to the 100,000 Homes website, over 12,000 homeless individuals have been given a home as of 2010. In North Carolina specifically, 65 of those individuals, just within the Charlotte area, have been housed.

It is KNo's mission to advocate this serious issue to the people within our nation and to those around the world. They strive for and encourage people to become more knowledgeable on the troubles of the world and urge others to take part in a cause that gives back.

Caitlin Cohn, a senior in English and a devoted humanitarian, works closely with the homeless community and says that KNo Clothing's overall endeavor really exemplifies the severity of the issue and the help needed. "Homelessness affects all people whether they realize it or not. We tend to ignore the problem by censoring it out of our lives and not accepting the unfortunate truth," Cohn said.

By ignoring the problem of homelessness, Cohn said the issue is just exacerbated. "If you were to ignore just one person in need of help, you won't be affecting just that one person," Cohn said.

"Essentially, you are affecting everyone else that is in the same situation and the entire issue itself."