In response to New York City’s surge in homelessness, Jordana Guimaraes has started The Nylon Project, a multitiered initiative that will include a New York Fashion Week show — all designed to help raise awareness about the problem.
Nearing record highs, New York City homeless shelters take in more than 60,400 people, including 24,000 children, each night, according to the Coalition for the Homeless’ 2016 “State of the Homeless” report. As part of the project’s #ItCanBeYou campaign, a booklet comprised of images featuring 25 influencers styled by sponsored brands and holding cardboard signs with real stories about individuals who wound up living on the streets will be distributed to the press. Models Daniela Braga and Rain Dove, singer Meredith O’Connor, Miss New York Nicole Kulovany and “Vanderpump Rules” star Peter Madrigal are among the supporters behind the project as are bloggers like I Hate Blonde, The Fashion Poet, Scarlett Hao and Lorena Branquino.
Aiming to provide 1,500 meals to the homeless before the February 7 runway show at the Metropolitan Pavilion, The Nylon Project is having each recipient of a meal explain how they wound up on the streets as part of the “It Can Be You” message. Those stories will be shared via social media, “so that everyone starts to relate and stops judging,” Guimaraes said. The premise is, ‘It can be you…It can be me…It can be any of us!’ Let’s stop judging and start trying to understand each other, to see how we can turn the problem into the solution.”
Guimaraes said that 50 percent of the proceeds from sponsorships and runway show ticket sales will be used to purchase and distribute the meals leading up to fashion week. Hero backpacks, the Lonewolf Collective and The Valencia are some of the brand partners and Christo Fifth Avenue has signed up as the beauty sponsor.
Even as a young girl growing up in Brazil, the rampant homelessness had an emotional effect on her. “Living in New York City now, I’ve seen the homeless problem grow year after year,” said Guimaraes, who recently launched ACL Marketing with a focus on philanthropic initiatives. “I was talking to a colleague recently and he made the point of saying how we are always giving the homeless what we think they need. However, no one takes the time to speak with them and ask them directly what they want. I also feel that giving money or a meal and walking away helps at that moment. But the next day they are left with the same problem.”
The aforementioned colleague was Fred Gelli, cofounder and creative director of Tátil, a strategic consultancy that uses design to create sustainable connections between people and brands. Gelli designed the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games Brands and he served as the creative director for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2016 Paralympics. He continues to mentor Guimaraes.
At the February 7 fashion show, the 25 influencers featured in the booklet will walk the runway with the homeless person whose story they shared in the booklet. Afterwards, each respective sponsor will give clothing to the latter with the hope that it will be of use for a job interview that could eventually stop their days of living on the streets. Grandison M. Phelps IV, a choreographer who has worked with Rihanna, Beyoncé and Mariah Carey, will also be lending his skills. Before the show gets underway, the supporters will share their views on why “It Can Be You” in a video. Artists, who currently perform on the streets of New York and in subway stations, will perform at the event with better-known musicians like Faulkner. “I’m excited to see where this goes. It starts with meals and global awareness. However, the possibilities where this could lead are endless,” she said.