Dominique Calvillo, founder of Namaste and Crochet, hopes to raise raise funds for anti-trafficking organizations by encouraging crafters to wear their makes this Dressember.
What if you could raise money to fight human trafficking, showcase your makes and up-level your business-on-top-slumber-party-on-the-bottom-pandemic fashion choices—in one go?
That’s what Dominique Calvillo, longtime anti-trafficking activist and founder of Namaste and Crochet, is hoping to accomplish by encouraging crocheters, knitters and sewists to participate in Dressember, the annual monthlong campaign to raise funds for anti-trafficking organizations by wearing a dress or tie every day during the month of December. But instead of commercial garments, Cavillo hopes to galvanize crocheters, knitters and sewists to wear their makes thereby drawing attention to slow fashion while also supporting Dressember’s anti-trafficking mission.
“I’ve been chatting with my friends on Instagram and sending DMs to crafters who are Instagram influencers,” she said. “Many in the community are dedicated to social justice and diversity and I thought it would be a natural thing to jump in.”
Cavillo learned about Dressember from the Los Angeles-based church that she and Dressember’s founder both attend. “I saw it come to life,” Calvillo said. “It was a simple idea, a style challenge to wear a dress every day, post about it and point folks to your donation page. They’ve raised millions of dollars, and they’ve done it in just a few years.“
Launched by Blythe Hill based on a style challenge she completed while working on her master’s degree, Dressember not only inspired others to dress up, it also catalyzed Hill to combine her interest in style with her desire to make a difference in the anti-trafficking movement. In 2013, she launched Dressember as a nonprofit that has since inspired people in 100 countries to collect more than $10 million, which Dressember disperses to more than a dozen organizations working across the spectrum of modern slavery from prevention to survivorship.
Calvillo had her own anti-trafficking history. She started Namaste and Crochet after working in southeast Asia to teach trafficking survivors life skills. When she returned to L.A. in the aftermath of her humanitarian work, Calvillo began suffering from depression and anxiety and rather than take the antidepressants her doctor recommended, she turned to crochet as a tool for healing.
Since then, she has created dozens of crocheted gowns, dresses and sweaters that have become favorites among brides and fans of her dramatic, global esthetic. Still passionate about fighting human trafficking, Calvillo has participated in three previous “Dressembers” but this year wanted to wear the Namaste and Crochet pieces she makes while also nudging other creatives to wear their handwork and other sustainably sourced garments, whether they show off dresses, sweaters, shawls or other wearables.
“We have a really powerful voice as makers,” she said, “and making your own clothing is a really great alternative to buying fast fashion. Doing something like this gets us to thinking about how we contribute to modern slavery and how we participate in it (by purchasing products from companies with unfair or exploitive labor practices). The products we make are a great alternative and hopefully we can get a buzz going around that as well.”
Calvillo is putting together a Dressember team (#namastayinadress) and urges other crafters to either join her team or form their own to raise funds for anti-trafficking organizations this December.
Reaching out to friends and influencers in the online craft community, Calvillo is putting together a Dressember team (#namastayinadress) and urges other crafters to either join her team or form their own. She’s also set an ambitious fundraising goal of $11,000 and designed a crocheted dress pattern, the Blythe Dress (pictured top), named for Dressember’s founder. Calvillo plans to donate a percentage of pattern sales to the organization.
Though she hasn’t decided on her first outfit for the challenge, Calvillo’s looking forward to celebrating slow clothes and getting dressed up. “They will all be very thought out and styled,” she said of her 31 days of Dressember images. “I’m going to put all my heart into the looks I post.”
Leslie Petrovski is a freelance writer and knitter who specializes in writing about yarn arts and culture. She lives in Denver with her husband, dog and cat.