When you think fashion, the last thing you would imagine is a person wearing the same dress over and over and over again – for a whole year. Yet, that is what Sheena Matheiken, founder of the Uniform Project did. She pledged to wear one little black dress for 365 days to promote sustainability, and raise funds for the Akanksha Foundation – a non-profit organization providing education to children living in Indian slums.
It was a crazy idea, but an inspired one. Of course, with Sheena's amazing sense of style, the dress looked radically different every day. You can watch more of the different reinventions of the dress in this video.
At the end of the 365 days, Sheena raised over $100,000 for the Akanksha Foundation. I had the chance to hear Sheena talk about her project when the World Bank's Youth to Youth Community (which I am also involved in) invited her to speak about her experience. She wore her little black dress, and was as inspiring in person.
Her project is now in its second year, spawning one-month pilots. Every month, someone takes it upon themselves to find a cause and wear the same dress every day to raise money for that cause.
That is the beauty of a simple, crazy idea like Sheena’s – its ability to capture the imaginations of other people, and obtain their support in ways that regular initiatives are not able to.
Another thing I find special about Sheena’s initiative is that she looked to her immediate surroundings, and tapped her existing skills (fashion and advertising) for solutions to problems she cared about.
A lot of young people are devoting their lives to development work, volunteering with NGOs or starting their own to help fulfill unique needs. Social entrepreneurs, young teachers and doctors are all contributing their time and expertise to solving the world’s problems. And their dedication is to be applauded.
However, Sheena’s project shows you that this is not the only way to contribute. You don’t always need to drop everything you are doing and take on a new job to make a meaningful contribution. In fact, finding a way to incorporate your social concerns into what you already do well might take you even further. That way, we get the best—doing things they excel at—a more preferable outcome.
The International Year of Youth is going to be a whole year devoted to talking about how we, today’s youth, can help solve our most pressing problems. In the spirit of the year, I urge everyone to take a moment to think of a crazy idea.
An idea that will contribute to solving the world’s problems, staying right where you are, doing what you’re already doing.
Of course, if you feel like dropping everything and picking up a new project, that’s great too.
Whatever you decide to go with, share it with us right here on Youthink! Inspire us.