How to make a dress that’s universally wearable yet individually specific, that’s both sustainable and fashionable? This question is at the heart of fashion designer Eliza Starbuck’s new clothing line, Bright Young Things. In the past, one dress for everyone meant a uniform; but Starbuck sees her dress as a canvas for self-expression: “I’ve seen so many women with closets full of clothes who say, ‘I haven’t got a thing to wear’. I’m giving them one dress that they can wear forwards, backwards, open, again and again, with anything they like.”
Starbuck conceived the little black dress at the heart of Bright Young Things’ collection in 2009 when she met Sheena Matheiken, a woman who was embarking on an intriguing year-long challenge: Matheiken would be wearing one dress every day for a year to raise charitable funds in an experiment she called The Uniform Project. Starbuck’s challenge was to create a dress for Matheiken that would not only hold up to a year-long daily wearing, but would function in any setting – at work or at a cocktail party, at a conference or a concert, on the street or on the beach – and would not just function, but would work.
As soon as the project launched, Sheena, Eliza, and the dress garnered international media attention, including articles and posts in the New York Times Magazine, Glamour, Daily Candy, The Huffington Post, The Guardian and the BBC, to mention a few. With The Uniform Project’s website reaching a daily audience in the tens of thousands, Starbuck decided that her dress had the ability to empower many more women, and to commemorate the end of Sheena’s one-year challenge, Eliza produced a 365-piece Limited Edition of the dress that sold out in less than a week and contributed an additional $10,000 in proceeds from the sales to Sheena’s fundraiser. Now, Bright Young Things is making the dress for the public to buy, style, and reinvent with the hopes that women will be inspired to shop their closets at home the next time they are tempted to buy into the fast trends that make fashion victims of so many.