Ever since I was a baby animals have been a huge part of my life. Growing up I honestly can't remember a time that my family didn't have at least on pet (most of the time we have multiple). This being said it is safe for you to assume that I am a huge animal lover, so when I found out about the store WearWoof last year I was elated. This trendy resale shop doesn't only have super cute and stylish clothes but it also has heart. The main reason this store is so awesome is because WearWoof donates all of the proceeds made to help WearWoof's shelter and rescue partners, as well as going towards things such as low cost spay/neuter programs. So if you shop here, you're helping homeless animals.
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing the owner and executive director of this fabulous organization, Ms. Nancy Lee. Nancy was kind enough to accept an interview from me so my readers could learn more about her shop, and after you read the interview they're mission and story become even more heartwarming.
Stark Raving Chic: What inspired you to create WearWoof? What brought about this awesome idea?
Nancy: Several years ago I was became aware of the plight of homeless animals. I was deeply concerned to learn that 6-8 million dogs and cats enter the shelter system every year, and nearly half never come out, that millions of healthy, treatable and adoptable animals were being killed every year by the system created to protect them. It was especially alarming when put into the context of our current consumer climate, where we spend 60 billion dollars annually on pet products and services for our own pets. As I learned more about the "animal welfare industry" I realized that there was a big disconnect between how we feel about our own pets and how we feel about homeless animals. I also learned that there are big holes in own knowledge and awareness of the issues related to pet homelessness, such as puppy mills, breeding-related health issues, feral cat "control", and the problems created by breed-specific legislation. One of the most interesting by-products of that disconnect and our lack of education on these issues is how little money we donate to animal welfare. While we spend unprecedented amounts of money on our pets, only about 2% of all charitable giving goes to animal welfare. It literally has the smallest piece of the charitable giving pie.
My idea for WearWoof came about in response to the funding crisis in animal welfare. I felt that one of the problems with animal welfare fundraising is that they continue to ask only people who care about animals for money. I wanted to create an income stream that was nearly blind to the actual cause - therefore capturing "funding" from people who may not otherwise give to animal charities. The actual idea to create a resale shop as the funding stream came from my own interests. I have a degree in fashion design and love to shop, and thought that it would be a great fit for our mission and fundraising strategy, and a relatively easy business model to run. Resale fashion is finally being embraced and becoming more mainstream in Pittsburgh, and I felt the climate was right for a place like WearWoof.
SRC: How long has WearWoof been in operation?
N: I founded WearWoof in the fall of 2012 and began to create partnerships with shelters and rescues months before we actually had our store. The support was overwhelming, and even without a brick and mortar, the fashion donations came pouring in (into my living room that is!!). We opened the actual shop in April of 2013 in a small 1,000 square foot former landscaping supply shop in Ross Township, and then moved to our 3,700 sf retail space in McIntyre Square in the North Hills in July of this year.
SRC: I understand you are a nonprofit and support the smaller shelters (which I think is awesome!), but which ones specifically do you support?
N: We have dozens of local shelter and rescue partners, including traditional shelters, cat-specific rescues, homeless cat TNR organizations, pit bull and other breed rescues, farm sanctuaries, rabbit rescues and more. Our concentration is Western PA - Allegheny and secondary and tertiary counties. We support our partners primarily through our Pretty Plus program, which allows donors to designate one of our partners as beneficiary of their fashion donation. When the item sells, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to that partner. We also support partners through emergency funding, grants, and inkind donations such as raffle/auction items, event attendance, pro-bono legal services and marketing materials. The full list of WearWoof partners is available on our website.
SRC: How does your donation process work?
N: People can bring their donations - currently we accept women's and junior's fashion and accessories, pet fashion, and home décor - to the shop during normal store hours. We encourage donors to visit our website to review the types and brands of items we accept, as well as the quality and standards guidelines, BEFORE bringing their items to us. Educating our donors about our brand is important - it results in the most good being done for our partners and our mission.
Most donors drop off their items and do not wish to reclaim items we do not accept, as we pass items we can't use on to other charitable organizations such as Repurposed and Animal Advocates' thrift store. Donors can designate any of our shelter and rescue partners as beneficiary, and when the items sells, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to that organization. (The designation program, as noted above, is called "Pretty Plus.") It's not necessary to designate a partner - all proceeds above overhead goes to our mission.
SRC: What kind of clothes do you generally take in? (I know it is women's wear but is mostly work attire, casual wear, or a good mixture of both?)
N: Most of the inventory we offer is women's and junior's casual separates such as jeans, tops, skirts and sweaters. We also accept and sell career suits and separates, cocktail attire and even some cruisewear. Handbags and accessories do great at WearWoof, so we are always looking for costume jewelry, shoes and better brand handbags such as Coach, Michael Kors and non-leather favorites such as Baggalini. We just this week started accepting home decor and fashion, giving our donors a new way to help save the lives of homeless animals.
SRC: Do you have any fundraising events coming up for those interested to participate in?
N: Our winter event, the Little Black Dress Trunk Show will be held in January. This is popular event is the ultimate Girls Night Out - and will sell out!. Guests wear their favorite little black dress, but no accessories, and then test-drive new looks while they shop from about a dozen fine handmade local jewelry vendors such as bel monili, Saya Papaya, Wanderluxe. Guests also have the chance to win any of dozens of fabulous jewelry and accessory pieces. Details are being planned right now and will be posted on our website in the next few weeks.
Wow I know I'll be getting a ticket to that event it sounds like so much fun and for a great cause! What do you all think of WearWoof and what do you do to help local shelters? Tell me about it in the comments below, and as always feel free to tweet me any awesome #OOTDs you come up with at @StarkRavingChic or tag me on Instagram @starkravingchic.