When you think of a nonprofit, you probably don’t image boutique shopping. But considering something so important, yet often overlooked, is exactly what makes founder Dana Spinola’s concept brilliant and impactful.
Dana is the founder and CEO of fab’rik, an Atlanta-based boutique-turned-empire with over 30 locations across the country. “Being in the boutique world I’ve developed a real love for clothing—so much so that my closet actually broke several years back,” Dana shares. After telling a girlfriend, Kim Fettig Bartlett, about the incident over a glass of wine, they began to dream about a new way to share in their abundance with other girls. Dana and Kim didn’t want to just donate their clothes and go about their days like any other; they wanted to build something more personal and meaningful—for both the giver and the receiver. Dana explains, “I wanted to be able to meet the people I was serving. I wanted to look the girls in the eyes, hear their stories, and be with them.” This was the beginning of free fab’rik.
Knowing that other women in the community would want to be involved, Dana and Kim put out an all-call for clothing donations. The response was overwhelming. They were able to collect hundreds of bags of “gently loved” clothing to give away to women in need. But the brilliance of their vision didn’t stop there.
The next step was to create a high-end-boutique atmosphere, taking care to give attention to the smallest details. Racks were filled with fashionable clothes, hanging delicately from the kind of wooden hangers that make any item feel more chic; jewelry, shoes, and accessories were neatly displayed, as if they had never been anywhere else. The effect was perfection. The only thing left was to give it all away. free fab’rik partners with other organizations across Atlanta, offering women in need a “free spree.” Elizabeth Chancey, Director of free fab’rik, says that this part is what free fab’rik is all about. “We host free sprees weekly so that ladies can experience the thrill of boutique shopping without the pressure of price tags. Each girl can pick one headto-toe outfit and keep it.”
While this might seem like a superficial cause, the heart behind it is so much more profound. Women in the community volunteer to serve as personal stylists so that each participant gets time one-onone with another person who loves fashion, but is even more passionate about speaking value into her life. Elizabeth expresses that the ultimate goal is to remind each girl “how valued and beautiful she is.” After picking out a new look and getting personally styled, the free spree culminates in a celebratory fashion show where the girls get to show off their new looks and gain a refreshed sense of confidence—the kind of confidence required for that upcoming job interview, for filling out that college application, or even just for making it through the day believing that the best is yet to come.
This idea is reinforced as the free spree closes with a devotional and a time of prayer. Volunteers and participants alike are gently reminded of the wonderful, simple truth that God loves them, he is for them, and he has a plan for their lives. They are given a carefree space to consider their passions, desires, and purposes—momentarily freed from the stressors and anxieties that consume their day-to-day lives. Suddenly, it becomes clear that shopping is simply the vehicle for creating a sanctuary of fellowship.
It is through the free sprees that Dana’s original aspiration to know the women receiving the donated clothes comes to life. Participants are engaged as human beings—as people who matter—perhaps for the first time in a long time. “My favorite part of a spree is sitting down after [styling] a girl and hearing her story,” Dana says. “Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve shared it… and they’re always amazed [that] I want to hear it.” Dana’s greatest desire is that each girl leaves truly believing that she is someone worth knowing.
In an effort to serve more women, the free sprees have evolved into a new space. “We recently launched our free fab’rik mobile boutique—a store on wheels filled with clothing donations—that will help us take free shopping sprees to safe houses, shelters, foster homes, and more,” explains Elizabeth. She adds, “When we partner with organizations, it’s just really important to us that our missions and our hearts align. We are always looking for partnerships where we can team together to bring hope and confidence to women in need.” The mobile boutique not only makes this partnership more accessible for other organizations, but will also make the free spree model easier to grow and reproduce. “Our goal is for every single fab’rik store to be running sprees at a local organization in their area and making an impact in their community,” says Elizabeth.
Community engagement is absolutely essential for free fab’rik to continue to flourish, and there are several ways to get involved. Of course, one option is to donate your gently loved clothing. Donations can be dropped off at any local fab’rik store during operating hours, and they are always in need of items for every size, season, shape, and style. If you’re like Dana and want to meet the girls to whom you’re donating, sign up to become a volunteer stylist. Sharing a small moment of life with these women—who have seen and overcome so much—is sure to be just as meaningful for you as it is for them.
free fab’rik is about more than giving away used clothes; they’re about reminding a woman that she is beautiful, that her life has meaning, and that she can walk in confidence—no matter how hopeless life has been or how long and unforgiving the road ahead may seem. She can laugh without fear of the future.