The shoes that squeeze your toes, the pants that don’t really fit, and that fringed-and-buckled jacket—really, what were you thinking? Most of us have clothes we no longer wear hanging in the back of our closets and bags that have been out of rotation for years cluttering shelves. If you’ve been putting off Kondo-ing your wardrobe, Union and Fifth is the inspiration you need.
Union & Fifth sells the designer goods that no longer give you joy and donates most of the proceeds to the charity of your choice. And once you’ve cleared some space in your closet, the site has reasonable prices on designer finds.
The fashion-meet-philanthropy enterprise came about a few years ago when Christena Reinhard helped her sister-in-law clean out her closet. After selling the clothes she wasn’t wearing for thousands of dollars at a resale shop, Reinhold realized there was a small fortune waiting in women’s closets–funds that could support non-profit organizations.
If you’ve been putting off Kondo-ing your closet, Union and Fifth is the inspiration you need.
Reinhard launched Union & Fifth— the name’s a nod to Union Street in San Francisco and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—to create a fun new way for women to donate to their favorite causes or to shop for designer clothes. The site carries clothes, shoes, bags, watches and the like from designers including Chanel, Armani, and Eileen Fisher. One memorable donation, says Reinhard, was twenty bags of Chanel. Union and Fifth also collaborates on special collections, as it recently did with “Dancing with the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba to launch an exclusive Nicole Miller line to raise money for the Animal Project Foundation.
Here’s how it works. To donate, visit the site and either choose one of its charity partners or enter one of your favorite causes. Print a label to use to ship your clothing free or request a free bag in the mail. Union and Fifth will price your donated goods and sell them on its site. You receive a full tax donation and the charity of your choice receives 75 percent of the sale price. If the item doesn’t sell, Union and Fifth will donate it to a charity such as Dress for Success.“Part of our goal is to keep things out of landfills,” says Reinhard. “We find a way to reuse every piece we have.”
Reinhard says she’s loved fashion since she was a kid in California, reading through the stack of Vogue magazines in her grandmother’s house. “I’m allergic to horses, but I started cleaning out stalls to earn extra cash to spend on clothes,” she says. But her path to becoming a social entrepreneur was far from straight. Reinhard doesn’t bother putting a soft spin on what others might call a misspent youth. “I made every bad choice a person can make,” she says.
Reinhard turned herself around, and credits the supportive people around her, including her family and the man who is now her husband, with helping her kick her self-destructive habits. At 28, she started college, finished early and got an MBA. Her first corporate sales job didn’t click, and after getting laid off, Reinhold looked for new options. She decided to use her sales skills to raise funds for non-profits, and discovered how challenging it can be for organizations to attract and hold on to donors.
“People want to give, especially woman, but writing checks doesn’t feel very meaningful,” she says. “Women make the majority of financial decisions in the home, including philanthropic ones, but need new ways to engage with charities.” Most of those charities, she adds, are still run by the men on their boards. Launching Union and Fifth was a way to innovate in a field that is often slow to do so. “My larger goal is to make charity more accessible,” says Reinhard.
The idea was not, at first, an easy sell. Reinhard had some connections that helped, as her brother founded a highly successful software company and her sister-in-law became her co-founder. Once the site was up and running, it’s been a busy, steady climb. “It is not a business that is easy to scale,” she says. “Every item is unique, and requires its own pricing and description.” Her staff processes a couple of hundred items every day in their California warehouse.
Reinhard is often on the road meeting with non-profits about how the site can help them expand their donor lists. “I spend about 27 weeks a year talking to charities to get them excited about cleaning out closets,” she says. And though she’s gone through some tough personal challenges, Reinhard says running Union and Fifth is the hardest thing she’s ever done. “When I was young and screwing up it was just me that I affected, and my family that I hurt. Now I have employees counting on me, and we have charities counting on us. This is a chance for me to do something good for them.”