Two Montreal students started a fashion project to help the city’s homeless
The fashion industry can be an elitist industry. But 23-year-old Concordia student Riaz Oozeer and 24-year-old McGill student Shelbie Huard are attempting to break that stereotype with their apparel project, Comme Toi.
Comme Toi is a fashion line that sells minimalist T-shirts and toques. For every piece someone buys from Comme Toi, the brand sets another one aside to be given to a homeless person in Montreal.
The fashion-humanitarian project is only a few months old, but the small team of two has already donated over 80 pieces of apparel to the city’s homeless community. Oozeer, a second-year liberal arts student, was inspired to start this project when he began noticing just how many homeless people inhabit the city’s streets. Upon walking the same streets daily, he observed that the streets were home for many.
The project’s name directly translates to “like you,” and encapsulates the heart and mission of Comme Toi—the belief that all people are equal and should therefore be treated as such, according to the co-founders.
Oozeer said he encourages customers to go hand out the second item themselves. Huard believes this exchange is an important part of the process for customers.
“I think that is really meaningful, just having that interaction,” said Huard, who is an anthropology and Hispanic studies student.
According to Oozeer, about half of Comme Toi’s customers have personally handed out the second item. Oozeer and Huard explained that many customers are aware that homelessness is an issue, but many choose not to interact with it.
“I think [the homeless] are painted in a negative [light] a lot,” said Huard. “But that’s not the reality.”
Oozeer said he tells customers who are about to give away a T-shirt, “Don’t be stressed. It’s someone like you.”
The idea behind the brand is that the act of giving away an article of clothing instigates an interaction with someone living on the streets and, according to the co-founders, the reaction on both ends has been positive every time.
According to the co-founders, Comme Toi’s main goal is to unite people through fashion. “Fashion has big authority over people,” said Oozeer. Comme Toi seeks to bridge the emotional and physical gap between the homeless and the general public.
“That’s something I find really interesting [about the project],” said Huard. “Because fashion is usually something that separates people but we use it in a different way.”
The duo said they have big ideas for the brand—they want to see their project reach out to more marginalized groups, such as the city’s refugees.
For Oozeer, Comme Toi is a small step towards fixing one of the world’s biggest issues. “We’re thinking of going to the moon because we’re destroying everything on our planet. What are we going to do there? Destroy it again and keep going? No, you’ve got to fix [things] here,” said Oozeer, with passion and conviction in his voice.
You can become part of the movement by donating to Comme Toi or by buying a product at their website.