Fashion 4 Development has taken a minority stake in Citizen-T, a pandemic-grown company that specializes in artistic repurposed T-shirts.
Started as a global platform in 2011 by Evie Evangelou, Fashion 4 Development was created in support of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the “Every Woman, Every Child” U.N. initiative that was led by former Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. F4D develops partnerships that promote the fashion and textile industry, while advancing economic and social development, preserving culture and empowering women.
Though F4D’s focus has largely been rooted in social awareness and service, as the organization extends into offering product, Evangelou wants to use what she’s learned to help other companies.
With Citizen-T’s fashion-art combination, different messaging will be placed on T-shirts to aid a variety of charities. F4D is also amping up the power of upcycling to lessen the amount of clothes and textiles that wind up in landfills. “Citizen-T is going to be F4D’s collection,” she said.
“We have great visibility around the globe so I would love to start teaching other companies that are doing similar things that could be used to amplify the message,” Evangelou added.
One such message appears in a “Code Red” T-shirt done in collaboration with Burnett New York slated for presentation during New York Fashion Week next month. It is meant to be a reminder, Evangelou said, of the U.N.’s recently released climate change report.
“We need to use those tools to reach people of all cultures and of all nations. At this point, we’re in a code red and we need to do as much as possible [to address the issue of climate change],” she said.
Also part of F4D’s new Ts, Steven Tyler’s Janie Fund recently partnered with Citizen-T and visual artist Brian Fox to create a limited run T-shirt that the Aerosmith musician has signed. Proceeds will benefit Janie’s Fund to help support young women who have suffered abuse and neglect with round-the-clock therapeutic care. Aerosmith’s 1989 song “Janie’s Got a Gun” told the story of a girl who was abused by her father. The musician is said to have often wondered what type of care would have spared her from such trauma. In 2015, he created the fund in partnership with Youth Villages to try to help victims. The collaborative T-shirt, which launched earlier this week, will help to provide 1,000 days of care for women between the ages of 17 and 22.
Citizen-T was started about 15 months ago by artist Stephanie Dillon and nearly all of its merchandise is, in some way, repurposed, adding sustainability to the program’s social impact. The Janie’s Fund shirts, for example, were created from repurposed T-shirts.
As a “child of the ’70s,” Dillon said going to concerts was a big thing for her and “of course, the way to market that event was to get a T-shirt.” During the pandemic, she reevaluated her clothing consumption as well as what was going on with the planet in relation to climate change. In trying to figure out how to sell her work with art shows canceled amid the shutdown, Dillon decided to turn her boxes and boxes of vintage graphic concert Ts inside out, put her art on them and sell them as upcycled art T-shirts.
When Dillon isn’t using her stash of concert merch, Citizen-T sources goods from upcycling resources like Texas-based Goodfair and New York-based Wearable Collections. Such upcycling entities are doing their part to offset the estimated 1.2 billion tons of CO2 that textile production creates annually — more than international flights and maritime shipping combined — according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
As an artist, Dillon is represented by the juried online platform Singulart where some of her current offerings include a $9,000 acrylic on canvas. Her art is an iteration of the upcycled T-shirts, in that she tries to use only damaged T-shirts and frames, she said, adding that sometimes she starts with art that is already there and builds from that. Such repurposing taps into to her personal shopping, too. Dillon has reused tissue paper from Louis Vuitton handbags or Chanel purchases for her art. “I was trying to be conscientious even consuming that. I mean there are certain things that a girl just can’t live without,” she said.
Now that F4D has taken a stake in Citizen-T, the concept of using less waste, encouraging upcycling with a dash of art and through celebrity networking appealed to both parties. Through international connections, Evangelou and Dillon (who met through Olympian Dotsie Bausch, who is deeply involved with the food sector portion of F4D’s global campaign “Sustainable Living Is the New Fashion”) hope to give Citizen-T more of a global spin “to activate more awareness about the environment,” the pair said in a joint interview Tuesday. The aim is to have more people “start buying upcycled, recycled and non-manufactured merchandise,” even potentially featuring these repurposed creations in a fashion show.
Beyond spreading sustainability to more consumers, Evangelou said she is also open to adding other similarly minded companies under the F4D umbrella to amplify shared messages.