When Celebrities Give the Clothes Off Their Backs
A recent New York Times article sparked some interest in this young Hollywood cynic. It showcases the auction website, "Clothes Off Our Back," started by actress Jane Kaczmarek and actor Bradley Whitford. The site auctions off celebrity gowns and attire worn at awards shows, and sends most of the proceeds to charities that support children around the globe.
With gowns selling at up to $50,000 per, "Clothes Off Our Back has raised $2 million since 2002 selling items donated by 500 celebrities." This venture certainly seems like a great idea- one in which philanthropists are making a positive impact out of a lot of Hollywood flash that previously went to waste after one night. This charity lines up with such conspicuous giving phenomenon as The Gap's "Product (RED)" or Nike's "LiveStrong." From what I can tell, however, COOB is a far simpler and more transparent charity whose goal is purely to raise money for children across the globe. Ms. Kaczmarek is not seeking to advertise or brand a specific product- rather, she is building on America's obsession with shopping and celebrities in a positive, selfless manner.
Now, Clothes Off Our Backs does fall prey to the marketing monolith, as they have launched their own line of clothing for purchase to the public. But with the proceeds of the store's profits going to the charities as well, there seems to be little to complain about. Further, when celebrities give conspicuously to charities, their fans also tend to support those causes, thus increasing the impact of the giving. As Ms. Steinhauer of the Times stated in her article, "When Nick Lachey is seen serving chicken to poor children on Entertainment Tonight, awareness of hunger goes up, said a spokesman for America's Second Harvest, a consortium of food banks that benefits from Clothes Off Our Back." Just another example of America's consumer-obsession being used to a positive end by some ingenious philanthropists.