Our Mission: To prove that ‘Fashion Does Have A Heart’
September 2013 (Washington DC) On Saturday, September 14, 2013, Hollywood image-maker & wardrobe stylist Sam Russell surprised a single mom in need with a wardrobe upgrade valued at over $10,000. Sam created The Giving Closet in 2011 after observing the over-gifting afforded to celebrities in the all-consuming entertainment industry. Traveling with Stevie Wonder in 2009 for the Presidential Inauguration was Sam’s first trip to the DC metropolitan area, and now it’s the 7th stop of his goodwill mission.
Identifying his mission, Russell shares, “Our society adores the rich and looks down at the poor. But if she had a new handbag and the same shoes as you, would you know the difference? I now travel the US and find unique stories of women in need and convince my favorite designers to help re-route just a small portion of what they set aside for celebrities and recognizable athletes. With the help of various non-profits and social workers, I learn the sizes and needs of these selected women and surprise them with a boost to their image.”
The 7th recipient of his traveling mission is Ivana Willis, a single mom with a son in dental school. Ivana has struggled with clinical depression her entire life. Despite having an extensive work history, she found herself unemployed for over 3 years when the economy shifted. After approaching Suited for Change in DC, she nailed her next interview with a donated suit and is now employed part-time by the American Psychological Society.
Sam exclaims, “As she is getting back on her feet, all the while setting an example of perseverance and hope for her son in college, I wanted her to have a boost to her look. The Giving Closet is not a handout, but a hand up. Ivana will do the rest on her own; I have no doubt!”
Each Giving Closet surprise is unique. This give-away included over 60 outfits ranging from weekend to weekday attire from popular artisans like Sue Wong, Adrianna Papell, Sienna Rose, and Single Dress by Galina Sobolev. Ivana’s “hand up” also included designer handbags from Koret New York and Meridian 110, shoes from Sole Society and New Balance, jewelry and accessories from BCharming and Vilaiwan Fine Jewelry, skincare products from OWN Products, and even a pair of designer eyewear valued at $1,000 by Gold & Wood of Paris.
As an example of how The Giving Closet is asking bigger brands to re-route some of their PR goods & budgets to benefit real people with touching stories, Sam shares the account of Gold and Wood’s generous contribution—“Gold and Wood was thrilled that Stevie Wonder wore their eyewear at a concert in Glastonbury a few years back. So I called them up and asked for a favor. In response, Gold and Wood sent a pair of designer shades from Paris for this surprise by overnight mail. This ‘pay it forward’ agenda in the cut throat arena of fashion is rarely seen.”
About Sam Russell:
A native Texan, Sam Russell has been a TV wardrobe and editorial stylist for over ten years in the Los Angeles market. Discovered as a model by power agent Page Parkes in Houston, his natural eye for wardrobe did not go unnoticed by local clients. After freelancing as an in-house stylist with the May Company, Sam ventured to southern California in May 1999. A regular on-camera style expert for NBC San Diego, Sam has worked with many notable TV personalities including producer and creator Chuck Lorre and actors Jon Hamm, Sophia Bush and Melora Hardin.
Sam wrapped up his fourth TV show in December 2008 as the supervising stylist for TLC’s “Ten Years Younger” Season 4. In January 2009 he personally accompanied Motown legend Stevie Wonder as his supervising stylist for all his Washington DC appearances including the Presidential Inauguration, White House Correspondents Dinner, and Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song ceremony. He now splits his time between Los Angeles and Washington DC.