One dress for 365 days – The Uniform Project

Did you know that you’ll need 1350 litres of water to produce one single cotton T-shirt?! The fashion industry is the second largest industry next to agriculture in terms of water consumption.

Qi Global 2010 speaker and Elle’s Woman of the Year Sheena Matheiken proves with her Uniform Project that fashion and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.

The Uniform Project™ started in 2009 when a young woman realized she was drowning in the doldrums of an advertising career. To counter the uninspired demands of the corporate world, she came up with an unusual creative challenge; to wear the same dress for an entire year – but, and this is where the real challenge came in, she’d have to make it look unique every single day and do so without buying anything new. The challenge was also designed to be an online fundraiser, raising money to send underprivileged kids to school.

Thus, in May 2009, with fashion as her medium, and education her cause, U.P founder Sheena Matheiken launched the Uniform Project, pledging to wear one little black dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainability and a fundraiser to support the Akanksha Foundation – a non-profit organization providing education to children living in Indian slums. And for the next year, Sheena reinvented her uniform solely using accessories that were either vintage, handmade, reused or donated.

Almost immediately, Sheena and the U.P were hit with a deluge of media attention. The project was featured in major publications ranging from the New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC, Times London, LA Times, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire to hundreds of fashion, culture and design blogs, as well as TV shows around the world. By the end of the yearlong challenge, the U.P site received over 2 million hits and raised over $100,000 in donations for the Akanksha Foundation and Sheena was named one of Elle Magazine’s Women of the Year for 2009.

The U.P now has an international following of supporters, a few of whom have joined Sheena to form the Uniform Project company. The U.P is now in its second year, expanding its first year model as a global platform converging philanthropy, fashion, sustainability and social commerce into an ongoing mission.


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