Chance meetings can sometimes lead to momentous occasions and even life-changing events. That’s exactly what happened when clothing designer and Baltimore Fashion Alliance founder Christopher Schafer met Living Classrooms Foundation Director of Services Howard Wicker a few years ago.
One of Wicker’s tasks was to help people recently released from prison. So, in 2012, Schafer and the Living Classrooms Foundation— whose mission is to strengthen communities and inspire young people to achieve their potential through hands-on job training— started a partnership to support men re-entering the workforce.
Even though it has just been three years, the partnership was in the making for some time.
“One time I was delivering a new custom suit to a client of mine and he gave me a couple bags of gently worn business attire to recycle,” Schafer said. “As I looked around for a place to donate the garments, I realized that there was a need to help men to dress for success. I helped form the Baltimore Fashion Alliance with Ella Pritsker and Stephanie Bradshaw; we became a 501(c) (3) organization with the help of Attorney Kimberly Neal. The Living Classrooms Foundation donated space in their facility at Park & Madison and together we built the Sharp Dressed Man boutique.”
Working on the premise that often a nice suit and appropriate business attire is the last hurdle for low-income men as they prepare to make a change in their lives, Sharp Dressed Man is hosting an Open House on Wednesday, December 23, 2015 from noon to 5 p.m. at Sharp Dressed Man’s new location at 235 Park Avenue in Baltimore.
“We estimate to having dressed over 1,000 men since starting this program. We plan on dressing 1,000 men in 2016 now that we have our own boutique with more space,” Schafer said.
The Open House will feature a holiday professional clothing giveaway to help the less fortunate dress for success, according to Schafer.
Each day and up until December 23, the boutique is collecting and seeking donations of gently worn suits, blazers, trousers, shirts, ties, belts and shoes that can be dropped off at Christopher Schafer Clothing or Carbiz.
The giveaway has already garnered the support of Millionaire Manners Academy, Male Enterprise Network and Capital Connoisseur.
“On December 23, we are hoping to dress 100 men,” he said. “Our role is to dress the men when complimentary nonprofit organizations refer the men to us. Those organizations work on the job readiness piece. We do find that when the men find a proper fitting suit that their demeanor and confidence shine.”
“It’s quite a metamorphosis that occurs when a man sees himself in the mirror all polished up and looking sharp.”
A recent news report chronicled a re-entering resident who was helped by Living Classrooms and Schafer’s Sharp Dressed Man boutique.
In 2013, Jonathan Crutchfield was released from prison and received his first suit through Sharp Dressed Man, which received a 2013 Mayor’s Business Recognition Award.
Crutchfield’s attire consisted of a black Prada suit, a dress shirt, cuff links, Ralph Lauren necktie, shoes and a suit bag.
Crutchfield, who served nearly six years on robbery, theft, drug and gun charges, said once well-dressed no one could discern that he’d been in jail.
“It’s cool to see this,” Schafer said.
Sharp Dressed Man is completely funded by donations. Clothes are donated from citizens and are given away to those in need free of charge.
“Our only overhead is rent and utilities,” Schafer said. “Thanks to financial donations from Yelp, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, the Abell Foundation and Dormeuil Cloth, we have been able to open the boutique and really get this program off the ground.”
For more information about Sharp Dressed Man and the Open House, visit: www.sharpdressedman.org.