COTG Interview Series Presents… The Vanity Project!

[L to R; Co-founders Omri Bojko and Jason Sochol wearing The Vanity Project hoodies – Bojko wearing Chicago Coalition For The Homeless logo; Sochol wearing American Friends of The Israel Sport Center For The Disabled logo]

Two twenty-somethings living in Chicago are unhappy at their jobs as respective traders and real estate analysts. Sounds familiar, right? While our generation is known as one to be indecisive, coddled by our parents and their upper/middle-class lifestyles and not strongly career driven, we are going to dive into the lives of two individuals who do not fall into these stereotypes. They used their friendship and passion for entrepreneurship to form a unique new retail/charity driven company called The Vanity Project.

Consisting of two Northwestern alums and college buddies, we explore with co-founders Omri Bojko and Jason Sochol the history behind the company as well as how it plans to grow and make itself a relevant company in the struggling non-profit world and competitive retail industry.

“It’s more of a personal journey as cliche as that sounds… I was ill prepared for the new world after college,” said Bojko of his post-college life.

Both Omri and Jason were very involved in their local communities by working with various non-profit organizations during their time in Chicago. Around the time after Jason’s mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (and now fully recovered!) they both sat down to discuss how they could make a profitable business by working with non-profits and have them see the benefits.

Co-founder Omri realized, “there are so many inefficiencies in how non-profits operated…  Just because I’m a non-profit doesn’t mean I can’t run a successful business.”

Here is where the idea for a retail based company was born – use non-profit logos and add them to casual apparel and sell. The idea is to “take a charity logo, make it cool to wear the logo and represent a charity or something socially conscious,” explained Sochol.

When Bojko wasn’t working, he would run from store to store, including places like Urban Outfitters and find the apparel/materials he thought would be most comfortable, easy-to-wear and marked the breakdown of materials. He recognized that, “fashion and clothing is the most prevalent form of self-expression we have and I feel it’s completely under-utilized.”

Under their model,  51% of profits made from the purchase of each item go back to the charity featured.  The Vanity Project is in charge of manufacturing the product and creative/marketing, if requested by the client. Most of their clothing manufacturing is handled by Alternative Apparel and “as a result, everything we produce adheres to socially responsible standards,” states Sochol. They are currently selling t-shirts, sweatshirts, tanks and just began thermal wear. Eventually they hope to expand into other accessories including hats, scarves and other basic wear.

Since many of these small organizations don’t have the money or resources to dedicate towards marketing techniques, The Vanity Project is filling that void by providing aid in this area where both sides can exchange resources.

“We’re almost an agency for these non-profits,” said Bojko. We’re going to help you develop your brand, market you…You have little organizations that are doing such good grass-roots, hands-on stuff. They’re not just advocacy groups, they’re really helping people out and those are the ones that need us more than anyone else,” says Bojko of their work with local organizations.

As anyone who starts a new business knows, it starts with a lot of cold calls. To start with small steps when reaching out to Chicago-based organizations, “We started with the Chicago Coalition For The Homeless. It was a cold call, but they perked up immediately,” says co-founder Sochol after explaining their thorough business plan. They’ve been working with them ever since.

Since these initial calls, they now acquired permission of logos for nine organizations that they are working closely with, including Rainbow House, Boys and Girls Club, Aspergers Awareness and their first children-based organization Story Pirates. Sochol and Bojko have an interest in working with a variety of non-profits both on a local and national scale.

Said Bojko, “Our goal is to have a very wide sweep of organizations that represent all major causes including equal rights, environment, education, homelessness, medical, disease prevention.”

They do hope to plan that some of their upcoming collaborations will be more domestic as they recognize the significance for aid right in our own homes.
While Bojko and Sochol are still in the early stages of their road to success, they have high expectations to how The Vanity Project will evolve. However, they are extremely grounded, with a mission statement that reflects the same, and consumers and people at large will follow suit with their positive intentions.

“We came into this with a good heart and that was the importance for this entire thing.. But, people want to look good too. If we can provide them with a seamless way to look good and buy things that are good quality, we will build brands out of these causes and direct people towards learning about charities,” proclaims Bojko. They hope that by seeing these logos, people will eventually learn to remember their associations to the non-profits and share that information with others.

Some fashion brands they used as inspiration to start The Vanity Project include Levi, Urban Outfitters, Vicarious by Nature, Free People and E. Village vintage shops. Bojko and Sochol see what brands like these are doing to increase social consumerism, which makes the timing for The Vanity Project an ideal one.

To market themselves in the fashion landscape, they’ve traveled to various cities selling their merchandise at festivals charity and other related events. They also just hosted their first sponsored event during NYC Fashion Week this month, which was a big success.

As of February, they have revamped their website so you can purchase items, learn about the non-profit organizations and upcoming events. They are also continuing to explore funding opportunities — if anyone would like to know more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

To summarize The Vanity Project, it was best stated by Bojko: “When people tell you that you’re nuts, you know that you’re onto something good.”

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The Beauty and Madness of Alexander McQueen in Savage Beauty

Gallery

This gallery contains 4 photos.

As many of you may already know for the posts I’ve written, I am a big fan of the arts. Whether it be art, music, fashion, theater – the creativity involved within all of these respective fields is fascinating. I … Continue reading

Free Yoga With Lululemon

Calling all NYC dwellers who love (free) exercise!

Lululemon is US clothing company that focuses on creating wearable outfits and accessories for yoga, running, dance and other forms of exercise to make your workouts fun, comfortable and stylish.

image via lululemon.com

Their Union Square store, (along with many others across the states) offers FREE yoga class every Saturday from 8-9AM. Although this is quite an early start for many of us Manhattanites (or other borough-ites) who rage on the weekends, this class helps the body and soul to create a clear, calm head after those stressful work weeks.

Although I have not experienced this class or taken many yoga classes, I’ve been advised by my yoga friends that this is an excellent class.

Visit their website for more information and find the closest Lululemon to you!

I found this week’s posting at Sign Post – a website giving great discounts and tips for activities/events (free ones too!)

Something Old, Something New…

Looking for the perfect holiday gift your man, father or friend and finding it at the right price?  Or are just looking for a damn good pair of denim jeans?

Head over to the Pop Up Flea this weekend, (the equivalent to a woman’s sample sale), where you can find new and vintage menswear for all shapes and sizes by some great designers including LL Bean, Levi Vintage Clothing, Oliver Spencer, J. Crew and more.

Starting today-Sunday, head down to 201 Mulberry Street and find your way to hidden men’s clothing treasures. If you head over tonight, expect to get have some great cocktails.

Visit the website or follow Pop Up on Twitter for more details on the weekend events and designers being featured.

Hours of Operation:

Friday(11/19) -3PM-9PM

Saturday(11/20) -11AM-7PM

Sunday(11/21) – 11AM-6PM

 

Give A Shirt, Take A Shirt

Are you looking for some new summer dresses or scarves and don’t feel like breaking the bank??

via indyish.com

Create your own CLOTHING SWAP! Bring your friends/family together and any clothing items, household goods, accessories that are still in wearable and clean condition. In return, you will find items that other people are giving away that you can become the proud new owner of!

Today, I just attended a clothing swap for the first time. Friends, co-workers, family members alike were in attendance to provide some great clothing options along with drinks (cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages) and snacks. All items that did not get snatched up will be donated to the Housing Works Thrift Store (on 17th Street).

I want to thank the lovely host, Lauriana, for planning this wonderful activity today!

I’m certain that all of you out there have your own personal items that you’ve left in the corner of your bedroom or living room to give away. Why not make the process more fun and exciting, with a chance to get something for yourself? For events like these, there are some great second hand items that may just need a new person or place to feel like home again! 

**Learn more about Housing Works and what they do to give back to HIV/AIDS communities that may not have the proper resources to care and nuture these brave individuals towards better health and lives.

**Are you interested in learning more about clothing swaps? Do you want to create an event of your own? There are many sources to check out and learn more!

Clothing Swap: http://www.clothingswap.com/about/

Swap Style: http://www.swapstyle.com/

Life Style Organizers article

Green Initiatives at HSFI

…NYC  High School of Fashion Industries (24th st and 8th ave) teaching environmental ethics to the future Chanel and Dior…

These clothes were made out of candy wrappers, leftover newspaper and other sustainable materials.