First, she filled a backpack with school supplies, now she has filled an entire library with books.
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Amanda Munz could have worked a 9-to-5 job and had a stable salary, but instead she became a founder of a charity, and spends over 12 hours every day working to send school supplies to kids.
While interning for some top designers, Munz noticed a wasteful trend—brands constantly throwing their unused samples into the garbage. Her senior year at FIT, she had an “aha” moment and decided to start a nonprofit that would change the face of the fashion industry for the better. The Fashion Foundation funds education by taking the excess samples from designers and retailers and then selling them in their physical and online shop. They use the money from the sold merchandise and various fund-raisers to provide supplies for New York City schools.
Munz worked out of her aunt’s basement for two years, where every day she would open up a folding table and a folding chair. She only had one clothing rack, that she filled up with donations from friends and family. She remembers her first big donation with glee. A designer emailed her that their office was moving showrooms and that they had a bunch of handbags they would like to donate.
“This company loaded up my car with designer handbags. And I remember leaving there and thinking, ‘holy sh-t, I did it, I got my first designer donation.’ It actually worked.”
It was a trickle-down effect from then on and more designer donations started coming. But the first major breakthrough came with a little bit of luck. Munz met the designer Rebecca Minkoff at a So-Ho fundraiser in 2016. Minkoff asked for her business card, and a week later her assistant emailed her, saying that they are donating 20 boxes.
“So literally, I remember opening the email and crying,” Munz said. “That was the moment that really changed my life. And I tell her that every time I see her. Rebecca Minkoff wholeheartedly supports me. She talks about us, she shouts us out on social media. Her and her company genuinely care about what we are doing.”
Minkoff’s donation physically pushed Munz out from her aunt’s basement—there were just too many boxes—and she moved to an office in Long Island.
Most people were supportive of Munz’s vision, but there was one professor, who told her—“You’ll never make it. You will never get people to donate samples to you.” She laughs at that now, and says that his discouragement actually pushed her forward.
One of her biggest projects so far has been filling up a library of an elementary school in Brooklyn with books. Now, she is building a playground for an elementary school in Harlem. The Fashion Foundation recently raised over 43 thousand dollars during their gala, and they’ll use the money for the playground and all other expenses throughout the year.
On December 12, Munz hosted a holiday party, where all of the guests filled about 150 backpacks with school supplies and gifts for the kids. The Foundation then went to the schools and hand-delivered the backpacks.
Back in December of 2016, when Rebecca Minkoff brought her entire staff with the Fashion Foundation to a school in Brooklyn to hand out holiday gifts, Munz met a little boy, named Malik, who touched her heart forever. “He walked in and lit up the entire room. He was tiny and had an oxygen tank on, but there was something about him that made everyone around him smile,” she said.
She’s never done anything like this before, but she wanted to do something extra for him. So she reached out to the school to get his mom’s number. She asked her what Malik likes the most, and it was Mickey Mouse and art. It was right before Christmas, so Munz sent him, his twin sister and a little brother a bag of toys and coloring books. Later, she took the entire family to see a circus.
She’s kept in touch with the family ever since, but a few weeks ago Munz got a text from Malik’s mom that he wasn’t doing well and that they have launched a “GoFundMe” campaign to help pay for his medical expenses. Munz has a big network and shared the campaign with her friends. Malik was in a hospice for the last four months. She went to visit him and brought him toys. They played with his favorite—Mickey Mouse drone. Malik was really tired, but still smiled and fled the drone all over the room. A few days later, Munz received a text from his mom—Malik had passed away.
“No one ever taught me how to cope with a student passing away. I cried for weeks and I still cry,” she shared. “He was such a happy, inspiring old soul… to be that at 7 years old… He was just a very very special little boy.”
Munz will remember the little angel for the rest of her life. Even though it is important to go meet the kids in person, Malik was the only student Munz made a relationship with outside of the school. Many children that she works with have had a hard life and it’s impossible to go above and beyond for each one of them, she explained.
However, small things can make a big difference, too. Munz thinks that the holiday season is all about giving to others.
“When I go in and deliver a backpack to a kid—that might be the only thing they’re getting that holiday season. Not everybody can afford to give hundreds of dollars, but most people can afford to skip their morning coffee and pay it forward,” she said.
This article is the first in Demi Vitkute’s monthly series Changemakers in the Fashion Industry in collaboration with Promo Magazine. The article appears in print and online.
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