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Redmond man combines fashion, art and philanthropy to raise money for various nonprofits
Stephane Boss can pinpoint the moment his life changed.
It was when he went on a 10-day trip to Guatemala in 2010. The Redmond resident traveled there with two of his sons — who were 13 and 11 at the time (his youngest son was only 5 at the time). They went down to volunteer at a school, fixing furniture, painting and making other improvements throughout the facility for the students. Boss said after that, he saw the world differently.
“It was a life-changing experience,” he said. “I came back and I knew I wanted to do it on a broader scale.”
After the trip, Boss began fundraising for the school and admitted the task “pretty much became an obsession.” He learned how easy it can be to make a difference, saying a small contribution for one person can be huge to the person who receives it.
FASHION AND PHILANTHROPY
Upon his return from Guatemala, Boss, who had worked in marketing and sales in the corporate world for 20 years, began thinking about how he could combine his love of fashion and art with a way to help people. The solution that came was BYDFAULT, a socially conscious clothing company Boss founded and owns that combines fashion and art to improve people’s lives.
The company sells clothing with social cause-inspired designs from artists — both local and from throughout the world — and donates $5 from every sale to the cause that inspired the design. Currently, BYDFAULT sells T-shirts and tank tops for men, women and children online at bydfault.com. Seattle Thread Company also carries some of the brand’s men’s line in its store in Kirkland. Boss said he is working to expand to also carry accessories such as bags and backpacks and to have BYDFAULT in more boutiques.
BYDFAULT launched in August 2012 and in the year that it has been in business, the company has gone from carrying only two styles of T-shirts to more than 20 styles.
Boss said they were also able to raise about $2,000 through T-shirt sales and a fundraiser organized by an 8-year-old boy from the Eastside to send Boss and his middle son back down to Guatemala in March of this year to help build another classroom at a local school.
While it would be better for BYDFAULT’s bottom line if all the money it raised for its various causes came from T-shirt sales, Boss said profits are not the top priority for them.
“If someone is inspired and wants to help, that’s great,” he said.
SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS ARTISTS
Boss (left), who recently became a commissioner for the City of Redmond’s Arts Commission, said when it comes to picking artists, he looks at their style and work but also looks into their social consciousness and whether they support any type of cause. If the artists are already supporting certain causes, Boss will work to connect with the organizations and go from there. If the artists are interested in supporting certain causes but aren’t at the moment, Boss will work with them to figure out which organization fits best with their cause.
Vin of Vin and Omi — fashion and multi-media designers working in the United Kingdom and United States — said they got involved with BYDFAULT because of the “great concept and more importantly, the very driven Stephane.”
“Vin and Omi are always looking for innovative ways to support charity and BYDFAULT seemed a perfect way to combine fashion and philanthropy,” he said.
The shirts Vin and Omi designed for BYDFAULT support Sightsavers, an international organization that works to combat blindness in developing countries, restoring sight through specialist treatment and eye care. The organization also supports people who are irreversibly blind by providing education, counseling and training.
“The gift of sight is taken for granted by most people,” Vin said. “If we help restore just one person’s sight, how great is that? How can people hope to fend for themselves without sight? Restoring sight helps villages and communities, not just individuals.”
In addition to working to eliminate avoidable blindness around the world and providing education in Guatemala, BYDFAULT also supports or will support causes working to end human trafficking and protect the environment.
Boss said some of the organizations they have partnered with or will partner with go a step further by hiring or working with people related to their cause. For example, the shirts supporting Not For Sale, an organization working to end human trafficking, are made in India in a factory of human trafficking survivors.
“It’s way more than a T-shirt,” Boss said about the fact that the $5 from BYDFAULT in this case goes toward providing jobs to these individuals.
Vin said there should be more government support for socially aware companies such as BYDFAULT, especially when they are just starting up.
“While Vin and Omi are happy to donate time and designs to raise money for the charity, it would be great to think that the government was aiding (BYDFAULT’s) early stage growth to ensure great companies like this thrived,” he said.
Alex Chiu, an artist from Portland, Ore., teamed up with BYDFAULT to support Shane’s Inspiration, an organization dedicated to building playgrounds accessible to children of all abilities. He said chose this cause after learning about it from a friend who has a child with disabilities. Chiu, who is also a teacher, said he appreciates Boss’s desire to raise money for a good cause.
“Art exists in a world of privilege. Very few people in this world can afford a high-quality, beautifully printed graphic t-shirt,” Chiu said. “For those who can, it is important that they realize that there are people less fortunate than themselves out in the world.”
Boss said BYDFAULT has two sorts of customers: those who purchase their products because they support the cause and those who purchase their products because they like the style. For those who purchase BYDFAULT products for the fashion, the company provides tags and packaging explaining its philosophy as well as the specific cause tied with the product.
“Either way is fine for me,” Boss said about the reasons behind people purchasing BYDFAULT’s products, “as long as people understand who made it and the cause they support.”