Taryn Zhang Supports the Compassion Fashion Project

Compassion Fashion Project - Taryn Zhang

Meredith Corning, founder of The Compassion Fashion Project, is amazing. Based out of Arkansas, the Compassion Fashion Project works with shelters across the country to supply survivors of domestic violence with clothes, personal care products, and even professional attire and accessories to help these women become independent. Corning’s initiative is all about empowering women. Of course, I love that.

Many fashion illustrators, designers, and industry folk have connected with the Compassion Fashion Project to promote awareness of domestic violence and other women’s issues. Whether she knows it or not, Corning has incredible PR and marketing savvy. (After I interviewed her, see below, I found out she has a background in marketing. Well! Now that makes sense!) She has positioned the Compassion Fashion Project as the nexus connecting fashion designers, illustrators, fashion enthusiasts, bloggers, and key industry folk, and has managed to get them all excited about the Project. Her marketing talents are astounding, and a great case study for any entrepreneur on how one can utilize both personal networks and the blogosphere to promote a philanthropic cause or business.

Corning is without a doubt fierce. She’s a general rallying her troops to take on a tough, tough mission, and yet she is poised to succeed because Meredith Corning is a leader, one with style, finesse, and even a sense of humor. For example, she writes: “We are just a couple of gals trying to save the world, which can be a daunting task in stilettos.” How do you not smile at that? =D

One of the Project’s fundraisers is selling T-shirts and other wares, designed by contributing fashion illustrators and fashion designers. See for example the above tees. Top, left to right: Gabby Hale, shoe designer; Lena Ker, fashion illustrator. Bottom, left to right: Gabby Hale; Meredith Cavaness Corning, fashion illustrator.

Browse the entire gallery here.

And now designs I contributed on behalf of Taryn Zhang will be available as well! Neato!

Meredith Corning graciously took time for an interview, but before I get into the heavy stuff, thought I’d post the rough drafts and designs I rejected as I worked on something for the Project’s T-shirt fundraiser.

Here are two pencil sketches I did on print paper. I thought they were interesting looking women at first, but then I scanned and uploaded the images and realized they didn’t take color (via the paint can function) very well. (That and I’m not exactly a pro with graphic design so the range of what I could realistically do with these images is minimal.) Also, friends insisted the woman image on the right (below) is creepy looking.

For the (totally unprofessional) way I do this, I need to hand-sketch a blocky illustration first, then upload it onto a computer, and then use the paint can function to add color. If I do any shading at all with pencil, which is my inclination, the outcome will be crap when I attempt paint-can-coloring. See third try below to the very right for what I mean by blocky.

And that’s how I ended up with the two final designs I submitted to Corning.

The purple lady above (and it is only one lady, copied, pasted, and mirrored to make two) was supposed to look sexy, you know, posing kind of like a fashion model or something? And she’s in purple? Compassion (for domestic violence survivors, the purple ribbon campaign, yada)? Fashion? Get it? Blah. Instead, she looks confused, like “derf? where am I?” Sigh. Oh well. It is what it is.

If you want to support the Project, domestic violence survivors, shelters, and make me happy, click here and order one of the tees I designed. =)

Now. On to the fantastic Q&A with Meredith. She truly is an inspirational figure and I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the fact she’s bringing together fashion, philanthropy, and awareness of feminist issues. Our industry often gets criticized for not doing more in the realms of philanthropy and awareness of feminist issues, an unwarranted criticism by the way, so I’m glad to present to you Meredith Corning and her initiative.

Q: What inspired you to synthesize fashion with domestic violence awareness?

CORNING: Fashion is synonymous with the message that we are trying to spread at The Compassion Fashion Project.  Fashion is constantly changing and evolving as is with the human spirit.  We want survivors of domestic violence to be inspired by the changes that are occurring in their lives. 

In general, I feel that the fashion industry is full of artists, designers, creative thinkers, innovators, and pioneers ready to take on this challenge to spread awareness.  I want all women to understand that they are not alone in this fight and have supporters that want them to be their own heroine of their story. I want women to find deep within themselves in those dark corners of their minds, the strength and power they possess to do great things, and sometimes that means taking risks…also synonymous with fashion. 

Fashion sets the tone and trends for what is to come. Who better to start this movement about a widely unwarranted taboo subject than the fashion industry?

Q: What has been your most poignant experience through the Compassion Fashion Project so far?

CORNING: I celebrate all of our successes, big or small.

I think that the biggest impact we are making right now is through our initiative with a wonderful non-profit called the Pink Slipper Project.  I wrote an article about the work that they do for women’s shelters by either sewing, crocheting, or knitting slippers for the women and children who reside in shelters all over the United States. 

The Pink Slipper Project has supporters in the thousands and everyone is invited to take part by hand-crafting their donation to their project.  After the article was up, their founder, Joyce Lucas, asked if they could make our three local shelters that we have been working with a year’s inventory for each. This was a pretty big deal for The Compassion Fashion Project as the ladies will filter over 1,000 handmade slippers through The Compassion Fashion Project. 

Networking with amazing organizations and companies has been a great accomplishment.  I hope that we will inspire others to network with the resources we provide to our readers and do the same in their hometowns.

Q: When did you start the Compassion Fashion Project and what is your vision and mission for the initiative?

CORNING: We are still quite new and grassroots.  I created the blog in November of 2010.  At first, I thought it would simply be a great way to talk about creative ways in which we could support our local domestic violence shelters with a “fashion” focus and bring awareness to the issue in an edgy way.  When we ran our first online campaign at Christmas, we collected over $100 to one of our local shelters.  This was not a lot of money, but it showed me that we could really make this spread into something bigger. 

My goal for The Compassion Fashion Project is to eventually raise enough funds so that we can file our paperwork to become a registered non-profit. The future holds many ideas I want to implement into my own communities and abroad. 

My first goal after we become a registered non-profit will be to start working with corporate apparel industries to filter donations of new clothing, accessories, and personal care products to our local shelters. 

Once we have achieved these two important details, we want others to start their own Compassion Fashion Projects in their communities.  We want to instill hope and self-confidence into the lives of women and children who have been affected by domestic violence to promote an overall well being in society and improve the way we all treat each other.

Q: You have been so immersed in the initiative and so passionate about philanthropy that you neglect to talk about yourself! So please, tell us a little about you. Tell us a story about Meredith Corning.

CORNING: My professional background is retail sales/marketing.  I am an art school graduate who just recently went back to school for my fashion merchandising degree. 

My Social Media Administrator, Elizabeth Newell, is a domestic violence survivor and one of the best friends I have ever had.  She is earning her degree in social work.  We merged our areas of expertise to create this project. 

Elizabeth Newell, Social Media Administrator of CFP

On a personal note, today is my 10 year anniversary with my husband, John (note: written 04/06/11), and we have two beautiful daughters.  My oldest daughter, Cherysh age 8, has been very inquisitive about what I am doing and has even started her own jewelry making business from which she donates 50% of her proceeds to domestic violence shelters.  My youngest daughter, Adia age 3, is not sure what I do, but when she sees a fashion show or fashion commercial on television she says, “That’s Mommy’s fashion project!”

Meredith Corning with husband, John

The truth is that John is my biggest supporter and I couldn’t do any of this without him.  He loves what I am doing for women and is very much a part of everything I do.  He is not only my husband and best friend, he is the Co-Founder of The Compassion Fashion Project and has great respect for all women.  We both hope that in some way we can change the way the world views what a “healthy relationship” looks like by leading by example.

Q: A reader/blogger sees this post and wants to help your initiative. What can she or he do?

CORNING: Individuals can do several things to help.  Simply becoming a fan on our Facebook page, a follower on our blog or Twitter helps us spread our message. If you live in or around Arkansas, we would love to meet you and have you as a guest at our events. 

If you are a designer, retailer, or organization who would like to donate your products through The Compassion Fashion Project, we will do the leg work for you by delivering the items on your behalf and obtaining the appropriate receipts you need for your donation. If you already donate proceeds, products, or time to women’s shelters, please make us aware and we will include you and your products/services in a “Weekly Challenge” article.

We are always looking for Contributing Fashion Illustrators for our online boutique where we offer t-shirts, tote bags, and other gorgeous little items.  In return we will feature you and promote you for making such a contribution.  Net proceeds from our online boutique go into a savings for our non-profit filing fees. 

We also offer a “Donate” paypal button on our blog. The need for writers who have had personal experiences with domestic violence are also needed.  It helps to inspire others who can relate and is cathartic for the writer.  Maybe you want to start a movement in your community and we encourage this and would love to hear those stories, too.  But, the main thing I want people to do is read our blog, learn, and grow with us, so that together we can all build a more peaceful world. [Sunny adds: “in stilettos.”]

Taryn Zhang New York and the Compassion Fashion Project

Combating violence against women is a mission near and dear to my heart. Through the pro bono legal work I’ve done, I’ve represented women who were survivors of domestic violence, rape, and sex slavery. I’ve sat across the table from women who were the same age as me, who liked the same silly things as me–cheesecake, puppies, Hello Kitty–but who lived through horrors and endured pains I cannot begin to understand. From the day one such woman decided she’d try to escape to the actual date she succeeded at escaping, 10 years–10 years!–had passed. Why? Because there wasn’t help or resources made available to her. That is why what the Compassion Fashion Project does is nothing short of heroism. They are making available the help and resources that enable such women to get out of their horrific situations.

As I write this, Meredith Corning and her team are currently distributing thousands of pairs of footwear to 3 local shelters in Arkansas. Back in Christmas of 2010, the initiative raised about $100.00. Today, in less than 6 months time, the initiative has raised well over $10,000.00 in supplies for shelters. That, my friends, is testament to Corning’s phenomenal leadership skills, networking and marketing capabilities. Other non-profits and even startup businesses can learn a lot from how Corning has directed the Compassion Fashion Project. That, too, is why I post this: who doesn’t love a beautiful, moving success story!

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