An innovative clothing label is helping a formerly-homeless artist in London give back to one of the charities that saved his life.
David Tovey is the first person to have his drawings printed on a range of T-shirts and sweatshirts produced by ethical fashion brand Hopeful Traders.
“When I got myself sorted out and off the streets I decided that I’d use my art as a way of raising awareness about homelessness. I think Hopeful Traders a clever way of doing that,” said David.
Hopeful Traders was launched in December 2015 by Charlie Wright to offer a platform for artists who have experienced homelessness to showcase their work.
“I’ve always been aware of some amazing art coming out of the homeless community [in London’s Soho district] and wanted to share it in a way that people could really engage with it,” Charlie said.
“People with talent and creativity should be rewarded for it, especially if they don’t have that opportunity come their way.”
The former sound engineer gave up his job in London to run his self-funded project. He added that Hopeful Traders also provides an accessible and easy way for people to donate to a good cause.
“Fashion speaks to so many people in so many different ways. It crosses a lot of borders and is a more accessible medium in terms of reaching as many people as possible,” he said.
Charlie became aware of David Tovey’s work via Café Art, which uses art to connect people affected by homelessness with the wider community.
David was keen to build on the success of his #manonbench recycled fashion show in September 2015. The event saw models walk along London South Bank wearing David’s designs, and raised awareness of homelessness by capturing public and media attention.
“I want to prove to people that broken people can be fixed and when Charlie came along and offered me an opportunity to take this to the next level, I jumped at the chance,” he said.
David’s designs feature line drawings of iconic London buses and taxis. They are available to buy online at hopefultraders.com, in Masato Jones stores in London and at Hopeful Traders’ new pop-up stand in Camden Market.
As the project evolves, Charlie plans to work with as many homeless and formerly homeless artists as possible. He also hopes to introduce a new women’s range.
Each designer will have the opportunity to nominate a good cause that they want to support with their products – 15% of the price of each item will then go to that charity.
David is giving back to London outreach project Clothing the Homeless, which also supported his #manonbench fashion show.
“Clothing the Homeless helped change my life by giving me confidence and that little kick up the arse to do something with my creativity,” he said.
“Working with them on #manonbench from last March helped me focus on something else that wasn’t my bad health or addictions. Because I can’t afford to give money to them, the only way I can help is by using the talents that I have, which are fashion and art.”
Yusoof Patel, founder of Clothing the Homeless, admitted that David’s gesture has left him “lost for words”.
“We always struggle for money so we really appreciate this. It’s great to have people back David’s cause and help us in the process,” he said.
Clothing the Homeless operates a volunteer outreach team that provides warm clothing to rough sleepers in London. The team relies heavily of clothing donations but Yusoof says the money raised by David will help them purchase hats, gloves, socks and other essential items to make up winter survival packs for rough sleepers.
“Because we didn’t have the finances this idea was always difficult for us to achieve, so David’s contribution for Hopeful Traders brings us one step closer to that,” he added.
“I think what he’s doing is great – it’s more like a fashion line you’d see more in Topman or River Island. I really hope people will be inspired by his story.”
A label on every product designed by David tells a bit of his story.
Hopeful Traders plans to do the same with all future homeless artists they collaborate with, in order to reinforce the idea that customers are directly supporting an individual, as well as helping many others through the charity donation.
In its formative months, Hopeful Traders is proving a hit with customers. David has even received messages of admiration and support from several people who contacted him on Facebook after reading this label.
“It’s been really surreal – a woman who lives in Kent contacted me because she was so touched by my story. She bought a sweatshirt and a T-shirt and she sent me pictures of her wearing them,” he said.
“It’s just nice seeing the general public actually liking the stuff. Hopeful Traders is such a good concept and simple gestures like that can really boost someone’s self-confidence and self-worth.”
You can purchase clothing from Hopeful Traders and find out more about David Tovey here.