CHICAGO — A growing clothing brand is hoping its '80s-inspired threads will help shoppers not only look good, but also feel good about supporting local organizations.
A newly-opened closet at La Casa Norte offers free clothes to Chicago's homeless. In addition to donations from the community, shelf after shelf is stocked with pieces sporting the neon aesthetic of Lost Format. It makes perfect sense since the mission of the brand is to give back to those who need it most.
"We saw a problem, and we tried to figure out how to be a part of the solution," Lost Format co-founder Ernest Berlin said.
Nestled inside an unassuming Humboldt Park building, the '80s are back at Lost Format. In addition to making original fashions, the 2.5 year-old clothing company's lofty social mission is to assist as many local organizations as possible.
"We started with the problem, and we saw the problem was clothing, and we thought if we make it, and we can get someone to manufacture it, and we distribute it and we sell it, then we have it, and we can also give it. It made sense for us," Berlin said.
Their socially-conscious clothing is made from natural fibers and polyester from recycled plastic. The look and name speak to their love of the '80s and the graphic-inspired designs that were hot back in the day.
"We don't see this kind of style readily available. We hunted for ourselves, we wanted cool clothing we'd love to wear, too," Berlin said.
So once they created their designs and found a manufacturer, they teamed up with Chicago's La Casa Norte to distribute clothes to those who need them. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless says more than 80,000 people were homeless in 2016, and La Casa Norte helps hundreds of homeless families and teens each year.
"Through their clothing line, they've been able to raise awareness for the issues around youth and family who are experiencing homelessness, as well as donate to the organization," Roberto Mendez, La Casa Norte, said.
The brand is growing through word of mouth and social media. Lost Format teams up with businesses to create a design, and then they promote it through Instagram or Facebook. In keeping with the founders' love of music, they also pair with bands, selling shirts at concerts.
"The response has been great. We've sold out at the shows, which makes us super happy. Walking up to the stands and seeing our shirt just gone, that's nice," Berlin said.
Berlin says that's a sign people are looking for ways to help, and they want Lost Format to be at the forefront of the movement.
"We want it to get bigger. We want it to grow. we want to have a bigger impact. We want to be able to satisfy all the needs of the organizations that are in Chicago. It seems like an achievable goal. It's just being able to get our product in front of people," Berlin said.
La Casa Norte's new clothing closet is open every Monday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and donations are accepted at that time as well.