Toronto-based label Peace Collective supports world hunger through fashion
The fashion industry is a fast and furious business — as the famed Project Runway catch phrase goes, “One minute you’re in and the next you’re out.”
Longevity and brand recognition are key to any startup company. Popularity usually reflects how much profit a brand will generate, and for most new fashion labels profits can trail slowly behind.
With so much uncertainty in a seemingly glamorous industry, many fashion companies will wait for some financial stability before they embark on philanthropic causes.
However, for Toronto-based label Peace Collective, the blueprints for a clothing line with an equal focus on giving back were drawn up from conception.
According to founder Yanal Dhailieh, 24, starting a clothing line and incorporating a philanthropic aspect was an idea he had entertained for a long time.
“Officially, we’ve been a brand going full steam since October 2014. I had the name and the concept in my mind as something that I wanted to pursue for the last two, three years and it all just came together last October,” he says.
Dhailieh, who studied bio medical science, wanted to be a physician but ended up going into software sales before he stumbled into the fashion industry almost by accident.
Photo courtesy of Peace Collective
“Funnily enough, I probably have zero, or less of a background in fashion than most people,” he says.
But a Toronto Raptors game changed all that.
During the 2014 Toronto Raptors playoffs, Dhailieh decided to make some T-shirts for himself and a group of friends.
With the city in a frenzy of support and pride, he says his DIY T-shirts, which said “Toronto vs. Everybody,” caught the attention of fans and the media, including the Toronto Star.
“It just went from people liking the shirts, (to) getting it featured on a little mini documentary in the playoff run and a feature in the Toronto Star,” Dhailieh explains.
“Just from me literally wearing the shirt, standing outside watching the game on the jumbo screen,” he adds.
Seeing an opportunity, Dhailieh developed the brand Peace Collective. Although he had an interest in fashion, Dhaileh says that “fear and complacency” originally hindered plans to pursue this new career.
“What was holding me back? The same things that most people probably experience. I mean, I didn’t have any experience; I didn’t go to school for fashion or business. I thought, ‘Can I actually start this? Can I actually do this? What do I really know? I work full time, I can’t leave,’ the typical excuses and fears that come into your head when you think of pursing something,” Dhailieh says.
However, the book Start Something That Matters by TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, set plans back into action.
TOMS Shoes, a popular footwear and accessories company, specializes in the one-for one model, which entails donating a product or a tangible item for every product that is sold.
Every shoes purchase at TOMS equals a pair of shoes for a child in need. For every eyewear purchase TOMS provides a person in need with a full eye exam by trained professionals. Each patient then receives the treatment he or she needs. In addition, every purchase of a TOMS bag supports mothers by delivering vital materials and training needed to provide a safer birth.
Dhailieh says that after reading Mycoskie’s book, he was inspired by the “one-for-one” concept.
Determining that this model would be the right fit for Peace Collective, Dhailieh teamed up with The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) organization.
Photo courtesy of Pam LauFor every item sold, Peace Collective provides one child in need with school meals for a month through the World Food Program USA.
WFP is the largest humanitarian agency fighting global hunger. According to the WFP website, last year more than 80.5 million people in 75 countries received life-saving food assistance.
Dhailieh says he learned about the World Food Program while volunteering last year in Rabat, Morocco.
“The school had a program for kids, who typically, (well) their parents would go out during the day and they’d panhandle for money and typically the kids would go out with them. The parents wouldn’t let the kids go to school and the school program tried a bunch of different things, and the only thing that they could do to get the kids to show up to school is to tell the parents that they’d give them a meal for breakfast, lunch, and a meal to take home for dinner.”
While volunteering, he noticed an increase in the number of children attending class and getting educated.
“So I guess in the parents’ eyes, they don’t have to worry about how they are going to feed (their) child, so ok, we will send them to school. Something as simple as a meal, which gets taken for granted in most places in the world, ends up providing an education,” he says.
Since becoming a thriving business in 2014, Dhaillieh says Peace Collective has provided between 15,000 to 20,000 meals. Their sleek streetwear-inspired designs have become a memorandum of sorts for people who live in or visit Toronto.
“I want to capture what the feeling being from Toronto is like,” Dhailieh says. “Like what’s that feeling that an average Toronto person feels about their city and kind of put it in a very subtle and minimal way. So it’s something that they can wear all the time, but it’s something they are proud of.”
For now, all the products are related to Toronto, however, Peace Collective hopes to one day incorporate all of Canada.
“[Peace Collective] is a way for you to show pride to your city and kind of give back,” says Dhaillieh.
The most important thing for Dhailieh is that Peace Collective customers understand the positive impact their purchase has for those in need. He says that for him, the Peace Collective customer is a conscientious customer, one who doesn’t just shop because something looks good but is also aware of his or her purchasing decisions.
“When (our customers) make a purchase, they are not just making a purchase because they like the way something looks. They are more educated than that. Our customer is somebody who is looking to wear clothing that represent what (he or she) believe in,” he says.
“So it’s people that want to feel a part of something bigger and give back and do good with their decisions they are making everyday.”
Customer feedback has also been important to Peace Collective. According to Dhailieh, customers have suggested a local philanthropic cause in addition to the work currently done with the WFP.
As a result Peace Collective, launched a non-profit called Peace Foundation that will work with local schools and organizations in Toronto.
Here’s hoping that this brand and its cause will expand to Calgary and Canada wide.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Nas Nasser
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story did not include the reporter’s byline. We regret the mistake.