The #wearoneshareone ethos of local clothing brand OutsideIn follows in the footsteps of other great business models like TOMS, with giving at the heart of their ideals. But look a little closer and you’ll notice a truly unique aspect to this business that takes the idea of sharing to a whole new level.
A Belfast-based streetwear brand, known affectionately as Oi, OutsideIn are barely two years in the making and yet the strength of their reach speaks of an already mature, established enterprise. Their products, cool, unisex apparel ranging from beanie hats to sweatshirts, tick pretty much all the boxes in terms of what we look for in an ethical business; ethically sourced materials, a fair, living wage for makers and on top of that, local printing and embroidering with provision for work placements for the homeless men and women whom the sales of these very products support; a completely circular chain. The ‘Wear One, Share One’ approach means that for every product purchased you also receive a hat or blanket to give to someone in need - which is where the uniqueness comes in. Whilst the team are happy to pass on the extra product on your behalf, their aim is to encourage the customer towards making this step themselves, creating an opportunity to connect, listen and share, and bridge the gap between society and homelessness.
To explain the theory behind this brand in my own words would simply not do it justice. So instead I have taken an extract directly from their mission statement, which makes their purpose crystal clear:
‘This ‘Wear One, Share One’ model encourages people like you to go way beyond meeting a mere physical need. We designed it with connection in mind. To create an opportunity for a relationship to form that can bring about real, lasting change. A chance to look people directly in the eye, instead of diverting your gaze. To spend your time, not just your money, rewriting the story of homelessness. To bring those from the outside of society, in. And to carry home with us, wherever we go.’
Their website www.weareoi.com also cites a heartachingly vivid depiction of the real life experience of homelessness. Again, portrayed in such a poignant way, it’s a viewpoint that needs to be shared:
‘It’s often said that ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’. But what is a home? What does it mean to be home? What does ‘home’ mean to you? For some, it’s a place of warmth, love and family. But for others, it’s an experience of heartache, struggle and loneliness. No matter where you come from in the world - or your story - the idea of home holds a very fragile place in each our hearts and is so much more than something physical. “A House Is Not A Home”.
Homelessness is a vastly misunderstood issue because we confuse it with houselessness. Houselessness is a physical state. Homelessness is a heart condition. One that cannot be solved by physical things like houses, clothes, or food alone. Hopelessness and loneliness are the two biggest problems our modern world faces.’
Their message, amidst the complexity of this global issue, is a shockingly simple one - that home or home-less, we are all human, deserving of dignity, with a voice that deserves to speak and to be heard. In our material world, clothing and fashion are perhaps the strongest indicators of how we identify ourselves. The idea then, of being willing to share and indeed wear the same item that a homeless person in need will also wear sends a big message - that I am identifying, not only in physical form with you, but also with your humanity, your humanness. The use of identity serving as a key to unlocking conversation and attempting to break down barriers.
Encouraging their customers to take the extra giving item and physically share it with someone on the street is eye-openingly progressive. Not oblivious to the responsibility required in order to make this first step, the team also provide giving guidance to their supporters, to help them approach the encounter sensibly and sensitively and help make it a positive one.
Their business takes a brave, bold, and some may say idealistic approach, which will undoubtedly continue to invite questioning and even criticism. But can you imagine the impact if this taboo slowly began to crumble? If giving a person on the street a little of your time, the opportunity to make some human contact again, if this became the norm and no longer taboo? This shift in perspective has the potential to change the face of homelessness for good. So get behind these guys this Christmas, good people of Belfast and beyond, for their mission is a mighty one.
This Christmas, you can find OutsideIn at the Belfast Christmas Market from 17 November - 22 December, online at www.weareoi.com and via Instagram @weare_oi
We will also have a mini range of their products available at our Salle pop up, 25 November and every weekend in December at Bullitt Hotel, Belfast