Actress & Activist Olivia Wilde Gives Fashion A Philanthropic Makeover

actress/activist Olivia Wilde

Actress Olivia Wilde has every right to focus on her career success, take it easy and enjoy her money. But, because she’s just a rad, awesome girl, she has decided to use her influence for something good. And we love a great celebrity role model who is multi-dimensional and can show young women what it means to do truly live selflessly.

The Tron star created a non-profit called Conscious Commerce three years ago with her friend and fellow activist Barbara Burchfield, co-creator of the Global Citizen Festival,  after they both went on a life-changing trip to Haiti in 2008. After working with many other organizations, the pair wanted to come up with a way to marry their passions with social good. They came up with conscious commerce which is, essentially, the most fashionable way you can donate to a charity.

They promote products and brands that work with specific charities, so that more people can becomes conscious of what they spend their money on. It means the notion of doing something for the greater good can easy be integrated into your every day life. According to the website their mission is “to create a guide for conscious living by promoting the causes, brands, people and lifestyles that are forging a new paragon of living.”

Olivia’s bio on the website talks about how she “recently made a decision to stop making bad movies, and so works much, much less now, but at least it’s all good stuff.”

Here’s some of the stuff she is more involved in these days: she is on the board of Artists for Peace and Justice, an educational organization serving the poorest neighborhoods in Haiti. She spent time last in year in Kenya to take part in Nicholas Kristof’s documentary, Half the Sky, based on his Pulitzer prize winning book of the same name. She also worked in Senegal with Jeffrey Sachs’ Millennium Development Project.

With Barbara and the Artists for Peace and Justice, they opened up a secondary school in Haiti in 2010 soon after the earthquake and continue to put more and more money into the school (via sales from brands and products) so more students can attend. To date it is the only free school in Haiti!

Their latest project saw Olivia re-designing an already-popular dress from Anthropologie and designer Yoana Baraschi, and the proceeds of that will go to the New Light school in Calcutta, India, which helps victims escape from a life of sex-trafficking in violence. The dress is also called the New Light dress, and has been worn by Olivia.

Olivia Wilde New Light Dress

This is the second fashion collaboration from Conscious Commerce. Last year, they teamed with Alternative Apparel to release a messenger bag, whose proceeds benefited a secondary school that Wilde co-founded in Haiti.

Olivia spoke to Elle Magazine about why this company, and activism in general is important to both her and Barbara.

“We’re two girls who are very interested in fashion and style, as well as philanthropy. We wanted to give people a chance to see which pair of sunglasses are actually worth investing in.”

Raised by journalist parents in Washington D.C meant that she had a different world view than most, which she says influenced her greatly.

“We were raised with the ethos that it’s your responsibility as a human [to make the world a better place]…Optimism is the key.”

The Revlon ambassador and fiance of Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis says there is a whole movement of youth-led non profits which makes activism exciting and important to a new generation of people, not just the old or privileged who have lots of money to donate.

What’s most endearing about Olivia is that she gets it. She understands that her time in Hollywood is not a waste because she now has a whole army of fans who will listen to her when she speaks about these important topics.

Wilde told Rainn Wilson on his Soul Pancake show that being part of the ‘Half the Sky documentary with 5 other actresses was a smart move, although some may be skeptical.

“People say ‘Why actresses? What do they know [about global poverty]?’ and I understand that argument but it’s amazing the power of Hollywood to draw in an unlikely audience into a conversation that’s really worth it.”

“It’s kinda depressing in a way that people focus so much attention on bullshit celebrity, but if we can use that for a greater purpose, why not?”

That right there just sums up exactly what we are looking for in our role models today. Women (and men) who care about others, who are talented, smart and hard-working, but who use their status or influence as a form of currency to create change. What better way to live your life?

“If you start young with these messages of equality and love, then imagine what the next generation will have.”

conscious commerce


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