At VienneMilano, we firmly believe in helping every woman look and feel fabulous. We were over the moon to learn about Uncommon Threads, a non-profit organization that helps low-income women do just that by providing clothing and self-esteem building workshops.
In support of this fabulous non-profit organization, we spent some time getting to know Susan Kanoff, the Executive Director of Uncommon Threads, and her work. Read on to learn more about this charitable organization, attend their upcoming Gala, and help those in need.
Tell us about yourself. What did you do before Uncommon Threads?
For over 20 years, I was a social worker and ran The Family Self-Sufficiency Program, a HUD-funded initiative to move low-income families out of poverty. I really loved watching my clients evolve and change their lives for the better.
Because I am truly an entrepreneur at heart, I also dabbled with a few side businesses during that time. I became a life-coach, started a small boutique with a friend, and even started a home party accessory business.
However, the stars lined up when I started a side-gig as a wardrobe stylist and style blogger. I wasn’t planning for this to happen, but it laid the foundation for Uncommon Threads perfectly. The business quickly took off, and within a few years, I had a robust clientele and styled for television and print.
I also started blogging as a way for my styling clients to get outfit ideas; thus, The Midlife Fashionista was born. The blog has received well over 1 million views, and I now have a social media following of over 30,000. I’ve represented a lot of large companies such as Chico’s and Clinique and smaller businesses that use my platform to promote and advertise. The connections I’ve made through The Midlife Fashionista have been crucial to the success of Uncommon Threads.
But the best part of all of this was that my private styling clients were always looking for a good place to donate their clothes and accessories. Because I worked with so many single moms at my social work job, I started bringing the donations into my office. This went on for years, and ultimately my office started to look like one big closet…but it worked! I dressed my clients for job interviews, parties, events, or even a “pick-me-up.” I quickly noticed how EMPOWERING clothes are and how the right outfits can have a powerful and positive impact on how we feel about ourselves.
In 2016 my little “office closet” won a state award for innovation. I had been contemplating starting a non-profit, and with the encouragement of my director, that October, I jumped off a cliff, left my social job, and started Uncommon Threads.
I truly believe that when you’re passionate about something, good things happen. In my case, everything seemed to line up. I partnered with Family Services of the MV, and they became my fiscal sponsor for the 501C3 status. I found the perfect little room at 60 Island Street in Lawrence, MA. I got clothing donations from the community and brand-new items from some of the businesses I represent.
The mission resonated with women in the community, so I got a plethora of volunteers. And because I was a social worker, I had connections with agencies for client referrals. During the first year in operation, Uncommon Threads served over 400 low-income women and was featured in The Boston Globe, Channel 5, and even in Woman’s World Magazine! It was crazy how quickly the program took off and how much attention it got. To date, we’ve served thousands of women and have over 300 referring partners.
What’s your favorite brand of fashion?
I can’t say that I have “a” favorite brand — I literally shop everywhere from Chico’s to Nordstrom and of course, at Uncommon Closet, the social enterprise for Uncommon Threads (I get my best treasures there!).
Uncommon Closet recently launched an online store too! There’s nothing better than “shopping to give back”.
Having said this, ecru and Vince are a few of my favorite lines since they flatter my body shape and align with my style.
What’s your favorite accessory?
I don’t feel dressed without my Michele Watch (10th-anniversary gift from my husband) and hoop earrings.
How can hosiery help a woman look and feel her best?
Hosiery is the perfect complement to a great outfit, whether it be work attire, a special occasion outfit, or even a date night look! I love that there are so many colors and types of hosiery to match our own unique personal style. Hosiery can also work magic to legs by giving them a smooth look, concealing imperfections, and even slimming calves!
Tell us about Uncommon Threads, and how did it begin?
Uncommon Threads is a non-profit that uses clothing and image to build women’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Our philosophy is that all women deserve to feel worthy, strong, and beautiful. By combining clothing and styling services with positive empowerment skills, we help women improve their outer appearance and shift negative self-talk. Because when a woman views herself as strong and capable, she can move forward and make positive life changes for herself and those around her.
Our clients are low-income women, including domestic violence survivors, cancer patients, female veterans, homeless, disabled, unemployed/underemployed, and women in recovery. Employment is not a requirement for services so we can dress women for every-day life, a job interview, or a special event.
How can women apply to your program?
Our “Uncommon Clients” are referred by social workers and health professionals. To date, we have over 300 registered partners making referrals, and we have served thousands of women.
Tell us about your workshops?
Through our Women’s Empowerment Center, we provide self-esteem focused workshops and groups on strengthening and supporting women. We’ve held workshops on such topics as self-love, self-expression through art, stress-management, and beauty (hair and make-up).
What type of donations are you looking for the most?
Because Uncommon Threads gives women dignity and respect, we are picky about the donations we accept. We take all types of women’s clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories that are in-style (current) and in new or nearly new condition. See the guidelines here. These items are hard to keep in stock: new underwear, leggings, plus-sized clothing, handbags, comfortable shoes (flats, wedges, sneakers, heels 3'’ or under). All donations are tax-deductible.
Do you accept donations in the mail?
Absolutely! Donations can be mailed to:
60 Island St., Suite 150
Lawrence, MA 01840
Where can donations be dropped off?
Right now, we are accepting donations by appointment. Email: Leslie (email@example.com) to set up a time to drop off at Uncommon Threads.
Are there donations you do not accept?
Please see our guidelines.
Are you looking for stylists to volunteer?
We are always looking for volunteers in all capacities, including inventory, styling, fundraising, and working at Uncommon Closet (social enterprise). To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please visit our .
You have a Gala coming up soon, can you tell us about that?
Our third annual Dress to Impress Gala is our largest fundraiser. However, due to COVID19, this year, it will be a virtual event. Boston reporters Susan Wornick and Cheryl Fiandaca will be hosting, and Timberland and Northshore Magazine are the lead sponsors. Guests will walk the “virtual red carpet” to show off their outfits and take part in a “best of” contest. Two of our inspiring clients will be speaking about their personal journey, and I will be saying a few words about our mission and serving clients during the pandemic. We’ll also have an online silent auction with lots of amazing items to bid on! Tickets range from $35 to $100 depending on the level. The VIP and regular tickets come with a gift certificate to Uncommon Closet!
How will the Gala be conducted virtually?
The event will be a combination of live (red carpet) and pre-taped (program). Attendees will be given specific instructions on how to access the Gala before the event.
Where can folks purchase tickets?
On our website, right .
How will attendees learn about the silent auction?
The silent auction will also be linked to our website.
This year, VienneMilano is proud to support Uncommon Threads’ Dress To Impress Gala. Be sure to check out their silent auction, and win a set of our Permanent Collection.
Photo credit: Boston Globe, Will Mann and Marcus Jason