L.A.-based Resident is Using Fashion to Fight Homelessness

By Taylor Bell
September 23, 2019

Los Angeles might be known for its celebrities and beautiful beaches, but it’s also known for its rising homeless population thanks to places like Skid Row. Although the state of homelessness in Los Angeles is reaching a crisis level with more than 36,000 homeless people, Amelia Thomas wants to use her new fashion company to tackle the problem head on. 

USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy graduate student Amelia Thomas is the founder of the clothing company, Resident. It's a socially responsible online retail company aimed at fighting homelessness in Los Angeles one purchase at a time.

Not only that, Resident also hopes to change perceptions about homeless people. In fact, the company's name was inspired by the statistic that the majority of homeless people in Los Angeles have lived in LA County for more than 10 years, according to the 2019 Homeless Services Authority's report. 

But unlike many social impact clothing companies, Resident's business model is completely based on transparency. 

"I call it a straightforward approach to social impact," Thomas said. "It's a double-edged sword because I’ve seen social impact becoming very trendy...sometimes it can come off as inauthentic. I just think it's helpful when you're as transparent and straightforward with your consumers as possible." 

For Resident customers, that means being able to view the exact amount of your donation right at the time of checkout. According to Thomas, shoppers will be able to donate at least 10 percent of their purchase to organizations that are fighting homelessness. In addition, Resident will send every customer a follow-up email detailing how their donation was used and who used it. 

So what kind of items can you expect to see on Resident? The first collection will be a series of handmade dresses, which Thomas says, reflect the essence of the "California cool" style. After that, the company will launch a collection of T-shirts in partnership with sustainable fashion brand, Known Supply. 

Although fighting homelessness is something that has been on Thomas' mind for a while, her passion for fashion began when she was a little girl. 

"Since I was little, I would go into my mom's closet and try on all these different creations of clothing and I would just sit in there for hours," Thomas said. 

That passion helped her land a modeling career by age 15 and several internships at fashion companies, such as Rachel Zoe and Tory Burch in New York. But it wasn't until one work meeting that Thomas became inspired to use fashion as a means to create social change. 

"I was in a meeting and someone said, 'We're not saving the world, we just make clothes,' and that sentence really bothered me," Thomas said. "I was like, 'Why am I in an industry where what we do doesn't matter?"

Shortly after, the idea of Resident was born and Thomas enrolled in the Academy. 

"[The Academy] helped me so much, the different professors that I get to meet and run my idea by, and the support that they've given me, it's been really amazing." Thomas said. "They're there for you because they want to see you succeed and that's some advice you'd have to pay a lot of money for if you were just a regular entrepreneur looking for a consultant." 

Thomas operates Resident with her mother, and together, the mom-and-daughter duo fund the all company's costs. Recently, the company had its first photo shoot and is in the midst of preparing for its official launch on Sept. 25.

When Thomas is not hunting down manufacturers, designing and managing business affairs at Resident, she is a producer at the performance outerwear company, Aether Apparel.

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