In step with the crisp winter air that swept into Toronto earlier this week, TAXI Canada has re-launched the 15 Below Project. In case you don’t have time for the full background, TAXI’s Creative Director Steve Mykolyn teamed up with Toronto-based designer Lida Baday last winter to develop a water-and-windproof jacket for the homeless. This unique coat was specially designed to have pockets that can be stuffed with old newspaper, which act as a make-shift lining in frigid temperatures. And to commemorate its 15th anniversary, TAXI paid for the costs of production and distribution of 3,000 jackets.
Despite launching last winter, 15 Below ran into production delays and the coats were finished too late into the spring to be of use in most locations. Instead of distributing them as the weather improved, TAXI put the jackets in storage and decided to re-launch its campaign with more gusto at some point this fall. Given the recent snowfall, the re-launch couldn’t be more perfectly timed.
Unlike last year, 15 Below has been revived with a new celebrity twist. This time around, in addition to their free distribution, fifteen jackets have also been signed by celebrities and will be auctioned off on eBay to raise money for the Salvation Army, the campaign’s charitable distributor. Participating cultural thought leaders and celebrities include: Robert Plant, Jon Stewart, Nelly Furtado, Atom Egoyan, and Kim Cattrall. Each signed coat will also come with what TAXI calls a “one-of-a-kind personal item” in its back pocket, providing each buyer with something special from their jacket’s sponsor. Of course, Ms. Samantha’s special item promises to be just fabulous.
The project’s celebrity pull is in large part a result of Mykolyn’s networking and in-the-know contacts; to bring the big names on board, one-by-one, he spread the message to connected friends who worked their relationships to make the hookups. To his surprise, there was no difficulty in getting the heavyweights to sign on. “Every single celebrity that we spoke to about this loved the idea,” he said.
Although he hopes the famous names will draw attention to the campaign, Mykolyn says he isn’t trying to boost TAXI’s social image through the pro bono project. In his own words, “The auction is really there to bring attention to the [homeless] problem.” Andrew Burditt of the Salvation Army seconds the thought: ever since he was contacted by TAXI to help distribute the coats, Burditt has worked extensively with Mr. Mykolyn and he adamantly believes that TAXI’s primary goal is to create a jacket that is usable on the street. Starting this weekend, Burditt and his colleagues will distribute the 15 Below coats to the homeless both in the streets and at some Salvation Army shelters in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver.
To make a bid on one of the signed jackets, visit 15 Below’s eBay listings page. Ten of the coats have been up for grabs since November 15 and will remain open to bids until Tuesday, November 25. The five remaining jackets go up for auction today and will be sold to the highest bidder at the end of the month.
Images courtesy of TAXI.