Video & interview from Ink’n'Undies
Take a minute to think about the underwear you have on. Think about all it’s done for you, those endless wash cycles and bean burritos. Very few people will see your underwear (unless you are of the mall-crawling crowd that belts up around the lower thigh, in which case you might be considered an underwear activist here), but for one particular group of people, the challenge goes beyond ‘boxers or briefs.’
When Helen Huang told her friends and relatives about starting a non-profit to provide underwear — just underwear — to the homeless, they mostly laughed. When she bought the idea to homeless shelters, they said please.
“It’s not just what you see,” Huang says regarding homelessness. To people struggling to pick themselves up, getting a bra that fits is just as much a hurdle as having an address to fill in on job applications. Women who escape domestic violence situations often don’t have time to pack their underwear. Then there are the babies. “Can I just talk about the homeless babies?” She pipes up during our interview. “Homeless children need new diapers, and pull-ups to be toilet-trained.”
Any parent can attest to how crucial those are.
So with that, Huang founded Undershare, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that relies exclusively on volunteers and donations to provide underwear to the homeless and distressed. They do drop-offs (simple: they just drop underwear off) at Los Angeles homeless shelters and sent undergarments to Louisiana when Katrina landed. Their latest project also involved underwear, but with flair: a skivvy fashion show fundraiser at the Ecco Lounge. Modeled by the Suicide Girls, a punk-rock-flavored girls club that threw all body shapes, tattoos and piercings on a runway, Ink’n'Undies had drawn a full house before 9pm. Clothes, or underwear rather, were provided by Seven ’til Midnight.
Organizations like hers, Huang says, aren’t solving the problem of homelessness. “We’re lending compassion and dignity.” In the end, she’s just trying to get some money for new undergarments. “And the people who laughed at me at first,” she adds, “they’ve all come and donated underwear.”
Call me giddy or girly, but I freakin’ love underwear. It makes me so happy when I walk into Victoria’s Secret or a department store, and I can browse through layers and layers of pink cottons or gauzy teal lace and search for something that will make my butt look cute. Please don’t downplay the importance of cute underwear. It’s a woman’s fundamental necessity and absolutely essential to making her feel fabulous, if not sexy.
Unfortunately, there are those who cannot afford even this simple necessity, much less cute versions of it, due to difficult circumstances. However, thanks to Undershare, Inc., women and children escaping domestic abuse and the homeless can access clean undergarments and toiletries. For more than 15 years, Undershare has worked hard and succeeded in raising funds so that it can continue its work donating to affiliated shelters located in and around Los Angeles County, such as Violence Intervention Program and Downtown Women’s Center.
The mastermind behind this volunteer-based organization is Asian American Helen Huang. She began with one goal in mind: to provide new undergarments and toiletries to those in need. Since then, Undershare has grown into a reputable organization with a large network of volunteers.
This Saturday, August 14 , Undershare will be teaming up with the SuicideGirls to continue its efforts to get clean underwear and toiletries to those in need. The SuicideGirls are a community of punk-rock pinup models with an unorthodox approach to sexuality and beauty. (They’ve showcased their talents for PETA and SG Pinups for Soldiers.) At Undershare’s Ink n’ Undies benefit, the SG girls will be strutting their stuff in a fashion show with select pieces from several lingerie brands, including the Asian-helmed Seven ’til Midnight (STM), to help raise money.
The designers for STM are Chinese American sisters May and Vinh Luong. (They also design sleepwear line Spreegirl — we did a TGIF giveaway for one of their designs!) Based in Los Angeles, STM strives to offer women contemporary costumes and lingerie with colorful, on-trend designs and careful attention to detail and quality. It’s no surprise that the sisters know their stuff — STM is just one of three of their intimate apparel lines.
So what are you waiting for? Scantily clad models, a good cause, and gift bags? (VIP guests get an extra special VIP gift bag.) Not to mention a silent auction with really cool stuff, and of course a celebrity DJ will be spinning live music all night long. It’s a no brainer.
Ink n’ Undies is happening on Saturday, August 14, 2010 at Ecco Ultra Lounge located on 1640 North Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028. For tickets click here, or for more info, go to Undershare’s official site.