By DEB ENRIGHT
Patricia Apple, Founder of the closing Couture for a Cause shop, created an easy way for you and I to give to area charities just by buying the clothes in her store to the tune of over $140,000. So, I invited her for a cup of coffee and a conversation to thank her and talk about her journey.
I’ve known Patricia since the opening of the store. As her store closes, I asked her how she got started.
She smiled and explained that the concept of Couture for a Cause started from a combination of “shopping stupid” which filled her closet with very expensive clothes she outgrew or never wore, selling her beloved mother’s beautiful clothes at an estate sale, and talking with a woman at the sale who worked for a nonprofit.
Patricia needed a place to consign her clothes, but the consignment process was complicated and never worked for her. The consignment challenge arose again, with her mother’s passing, but rather than struggle through the process, Patricia showed her entrepreneurial instinct and decided to sell the clothes herself holding an estate sale. The nonprofit employees who came to the estate sale asked Patricia for any clothes that didn’t sell so she could give them to some of the women her organization was helping.
She told me the night after the estate sale she just couldn’t sleep. She grabbed a pencil and paper and just kept writing and putting the pieces together to honor her mother and help others at the same time through fashion. Patricia believes the Holy Spirit was behind all of it. By morning, Patricia had a plan. She needed a storefront, consigned gently or never worn couture level clothes and accessories to sell, and folks eager to buy dresses seen at events like the CMAs or the Swan Ball as well as suits with designer labels for work from the best fashion houses with shoes and accessories also available.
Sounds familiar, but here’s the catch, rather than pay a percentage from the sale to the person who brought in the clothes, it would go to a nonprofit named by the owner of the clothes.
Et voila, Couture’s mission to “provide an effortless source of incremental revenue for local charities” was born. Patricia decided that when presented with a choice to philanthropically give more to one organization or give to more organizations, Couture for a Cause afforded her customers with an unlimited opportunity to make a difference on a wider scale.
And what a difference she has made by combining couture with consignment to as her mission reads “contribute toward the awareness and financial support to all the nonprofit organizations who are trying to make the world a little bit better.”
Patricia said that those who brought in clothes and those who bought had a significant impact on area organizations. She told me of the mother of a high school art teacher who wanted to help buy supplies for her daughter’s classroom and her students, but did not have the cash needed. Patricia tears up when she recounts this Mom bringing in clothes to put on consignment, naming her daughter’s classroom as the beneficiary of the sale of any of the clothes, and Couture selling enough of the clothes so that the daughter’s high school art classroom was fully supplied for the school year.
She talked of the handwritten note she received from a woman saved by one of the organizations focused on stopping human trafficking that Couture for a Cause had given funds to from the sale of clothes in the shop.
And she ended her collection of stories with one that brought tears to us and filled our hearts. Patricia told a beautiful story of an elderly man who had just lost his wife who brought in her “exquisite” wardrobe upon her passing. He told Patricia he had no idea what to do with the clothes, but that they were important to his wife and he thought giving them to Couture for a Cause could provide some happiness in this very difficult time. Patricia described the clothes as “beautiful”. Patricia said that as the gentleman started to leave, he turned around one more time to see his wife’s clothes giving her a nod as if to say, “I think, I’ve done right by her by coming here to Couture.”
As our coffee cups emptied, I asked Patricia if she understood what she had done for all of the families who needed a place to bring these beautiful clothes or the organizations who benefitted from her divine idea. She smiled her gorgeous smile and said, “You know, it doesn’t have to be clothes to make this model of giving work. Someone could consign furniture, home accessories, or anything that can be recycled or repurposed. It is my time to step away from Couture, but someone could make it continue. The idea is so simple. We’ve shown it works.”
We hugged hard as we left each other. She has worked her fingers to the bone to help her community. I am so grateful to know Patricia Apple of Couture for a Cause: a woman who took her passion for clothes, her love for her mother, and her heart for organizations serving our community to create something where everyone involved can make a difference. That’s impact.
Deb Enright is honored to have the opportunity to bring light to the work of women who answer when their passion to help others is calling in Style Home Page. If you know of someone Deb should interview, let her know at firstname.lastname@example.org.