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  • Writer's pictureSAMANTHA VEGA-TORRES

Fashion class collabs with Uncommon Threads

Uncommon Threads in Lawrence, Massachusetts is collaborating with a capstone course from the School of Fashion to assist with strategic planning and gain perspective on ways to improve the non-profit organization and storefront.

Program Director Heather Gaspar gives the FASH427 students a tour of the Uncommon Threads. Photo by Abi Brown

The organization is split into two distinct business enterprises. A for-profit store, which is called Uncommon Closet, and the other is the non-profit and outreach organization, Uncommon Threads. The business has supported the Lawrence community since 2016.

“The mission of the organization is to empower women through wardrobe styling and personal development workshops. Women that are low-income and are referred through social service agencies,” said Program Director Heather Gaspar.

According to Gaspar, the company has grown in clientele from 400 their first year to 2,800 in their fifth. She is excited to see what the future brings.

This semester, Uncommon Threads got in contact with Professor Catherine Weiss and other faculty at Lasell to discuss bringing the business model to the students of FASH427: Fashion Industry Capstone. The course has worked with other brands in the past such as Sperry Sport, Wayfair, and Turtle Fur and runs every semester for fashion students.

Clothes line the racks inside Uncommon Closet. Photo by Abi Brown

Senior fashion merchandising and management major, Catherine King, is glad to have the opportunity to gain real industry connections while assisting in the overall growth of the business.

“It really does feel like an exchange of talents and skill sets. We are able to present solutions or ideas to an aspect of their business that they may not have tapped into yet, and in return we get the experience and responsibility of managing and executing plans and proposals for a real business,” said King. “They have been very open about how they operate their business, and that level of trust really shows that this is more than just a project in a class, it is a real connection for us all to have.”

Many of the clientele at Uncommon Threads are low-income or are in the process of leaving bad situations such as domestic violence, according to senior fashion merchandising and management major, Elena Gruendel.

“They work with a social worker service in Lawrence, Mass, and I really want to say just in the area in general. They basically sponsor them,” said Gruendel. “There’s a certification process they have to go through and they are gifted four complete outfits for whatever occasion that they need and they are given a discount for the store itself if they were to go in and shop in the storefront.”

Students observe as a staff member discusses the donation process. Photo by Abi Brown

The class is split into four teams focused on different areas in the business. Gruendel and King both work as part of the executive team. There are also promotions, social media, and e-commerce teams. The teams are working on bringing in changes or ideas to best support the business and the local community.

“It’s a really great way for them not only to community build, but also to just really help these women grow more confidence in themselves and just learn to get back on their feet again,” said Gruendel.

Gaspar enjoys engaging and collaborating with the students, and is grateful for the opportunity.

The entrance to Uncommon Threads is sequestered out of eyesight. Photo by Abi Brown

“Right now we’re starting this strategic planning process with a strategic planner and a group of members from our advisor council who are all going to help give focus to our direction at about the same time students will be presenting their ideas,” said Gaspar. “I think taking the two together, looking at the direction and the ideas presented to enhance and improve our processes will allow us to look into the next step of implementing.”

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