The owners of a Toronto clothing brand accused on social media of exploiting the idea of poverty and homelessness told VICE Wednesday that critics are jumping to conclusions, and that they are not profiting off the misfortune of others.
HOMELESS, a Toronto clothing brand founded by Erny Anchata and Trevor Nicholls, received heavy online criticism this week after the brand began advertising itself as a clothing line for the "underdogs" of society.
"Honestly, I don't know what to say," Cathy Crowe, a prolific Toronto homelessness activist and street nurse, replied to the tweet.
The items on the HOMELESS website consist of everything from coffee mugs and simple graphic tees, to distressed and dip-dyed hoodies. Some of the items range as high as $155, and some are as low as $20.
The brand's owners claim that a portion of all proceeds of sales will be given to local anti-poverty initiatives, but that the system is in the very early stages and that they just made their first sale last week. Both Nicholls and Anchata have said that they are trying to work with local poverty organization Eva's Place, but that nothing has been finalized, and that they have been trying to offer homeless individuals on the street toiletries and clothing in the meantime.
During a call with VICE, an Eva's Place spokesperson said they were not aware that any conversations between HOMELESS and their organization had happened, but that they are immediately looking to find out if someone had unofficially suggested the idea to the brand.
Speaking with VICE on Wednesday, Nicholls doubled-down on this sentiment, saying that he was angry with how people had jumped to conclusions about his life, and his motivations with creating a brand called HOMELESS.
"I totally disagree with the idea that we're exploiting homelessness," he told VICE. "I'm gonna be straight-up: I currently don't have a permanent place to live, I work full-time, this was a way I thought we could give back and make a living."
When asked if he felt like the name was offensive, Nicholls said it was meant to be controversial.
"Look, we wouldn't be talking about it right now if we named it something else," he told VICE. "If it gets people talking and gets attention to the issue, then I don't care."
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