For the past 25 years, Raising the Roof (RTR) has been a national leader in homelessness prevention - raising over $9 million through the efforts of its campaigns. Continuing this trend, RTR’s recently tapped up newly founded Canadian creative agency Courage, with the hopes of seeing new life breathed into this important initiative.
“The picture of homelessness in Canada, has led to apathy across our communities. To inspire action with this campaign, we knew we had to chart a different course that would force people to pay attention,” says Tom Kenny, chief strategy officer at Courage. “Up to 7,000 children across Canada will be sleeping on the street tonight, searching for safety. In fact, through our research, we found that 20% of the homeless population in Canada are kids, and so to break perceptions and drive impact, we chose that as our focus for this year’s campaign.”
To combat Canadian apathy, the team looked to take a non-traditional approach to the campaign. Inspired by the fashion industry - in which major designers and runways have previously been inspired by homelessness - RTR launched ‘Streestwear by RTR
’. The five-piece concept collection features items with added street-survival elements designed for youth experiencing homelessness.
“For years, the term ‘homeless chic’ has been used to describe fashion collections or an emerging trend, whether it be garbage bags sold for thousands of dollars or high-end clothing items held together with duct tape,” says Courage associate creative director Hemal Dhanjee. “Ultimately, these trends are appropriating a growing epidemic that impacts millions of people.”
While items are not for purchase, the collection aims to provoke a necessary conversation surrounding the very real and growing epidemic of youth homelessness. “The intention with this concept collection was to spark outrage and drive awareness to create real change, because what's happening on our streets with the rise of youth homelessness isn't a trend; it's a reality.” adds Courage associate creative director Steve Ierullo.
Impassioned by the cause, notable Toronto-based designers Lauren Novak and Caitlin Wright collaborated with RTR and Courage to bring this impactful collection to life. Lauren is the designer behind ‘Remark by Lauren
’, and creates distinctive pieces from preexisting materials, while Caitlin is a costume designer and wardrobe stylist who has worked with recording artists such as Drake, DJ Khaled and The Arkells, as well as being the designer behind Kyshe
, a brand specialising in limited run items from vintage garments.
Included in the collection is:
- ‘Pavement Parka’, a multi-functional winter coat that unravels into a full sized kids sleeping bag.
- ‘Cardboard Cargos’, allowing kids to pad their pockets with cardboard so they can have an easier time lying on concrete and benches.
- ‘Tent-o-Poncho’, a wearable, weatherproof shelter that can be attached to subway grates to create a heated tent.
- ‘Kevlar Kicks’, which use carbon fibre and Kevlar material to protect kids from broken glass and needles as they run through alleyways.
- ‘Tap-Me Teddy’ (made of hyper-durable material), which accepts card-tapped payments, so kids can panhandle in a cashless society.
'Streetswear by RTR' made its public debut on Friday November 11th at Fashion Art Toronto, the city’s longest running fashion week - and a length of time in which one in 100 youth will experience homelessness. In addition to this launch, the campaign includes a 60-second fashion commercial shot by director Justin Abernathy, represented by Undivided Creative. The campaign will also live on social, digital video, donated OOH, as well as a microsite with paid media managed by M&K, all with No Fixed Address handling public relations.
And while the clothing line may not exist, what it seeks to do is drive people to learn more about RTR, where they have the option to buy a very real piece of clothing with the purchase of the iconic ‘Raising the Roof Toque
Set at $25, proceeds are put toward helping end homelessness in Canada. “For over 25 years, the ‘Raising the Roof Toque’ campaign has supported homelessness prevention programs across Canada – raising over $9 million in support for our 200 partner agencies,” says Marc Soberano, executive director at RTR. “Our goal is to ensure all people in Canada have access to a safe, stable home, and the support they need to achieve their potential.”