This blog post was written by Sonia Dong
Update: January 2020
In memory of our late Founder Jo, we donate 1% of sales to the Joanna Duong Chang Foundation. Established in 2020, Jo's Foundation has a mandate to support girls and women reach their fullest potentials.
The following blog was first published in 2018
Our Founder Jo wore her first Henkaa convertible dress to my wedding as a guest, and I was blown away by the possibilities. The dresses give women the freedom to be themselves and to express their personal style at special events and celebrations. They can also be worn again - for many more events and in different styles (my husband always thinks I'm wearing a new dress). And yes, it's also true that you don't have to worry about fitting into these dresses six months from now if you gain or lose weight - which I was especially appreciative of when my weight fluctuated more than 30 pounds over two pregnancies!
All of those perks (and many more) are amazing. But when Jo asked me to become a part of the team, I learned that Henkaa isn't just about pretty dresses, and I said yes to the dress AND the core values behind the company. Henkaa is:
- Empowering women to look and feel good with ease when they dress up for a special occasion - we give women the choice to style their dresses the way they'd like to
- Making the fashion space more inclusive with our size flexible clothing fitting up to size 24 and our diverse marketing efforts
- Creating less waste with special occasion wear that can be worn again (not one-time use)
Henkaa's values of empowerment, inclusivity and sustainability really drew me in, and as someone who had been working in the charitable sector for years, I saw many opportunities to expand on these values through the company's charitable work. Jo had already begun giving back to the community through activities like CIBC Run for the Cure, and throughout the years, we worked on many other initiatives.
Henkaa wearing Sakura Midi Convertible Dresses for CIBC Run for the Cure, Toronto, 2011
We've focused the majority of our efforts in three main areas:
- Making an impact on the lives of women and girls
- Supporting newcomers and their families to Canada
- Diverting textile waste
Henkaa has had the pleasure and privilege of working with some awesome organizations and I'm always, always humbled by the depth and breadth of their work and the impact they're making. Below are some highlights - I encourage you to check out these organizations and consider supporting them. And in turn, I'd like to thank you for supporting Henkaa because it's the Henkaanista community that makes this all possible.
Henkaa Gives Back Through the Years
The Toronto Shoebox Project encourages members of the community to wrap a shoebox filled with necessities and gifts valued at $50 for women in need during the holidays. Since they began in 2011, they have gifted more than 130,000 shoeboxes valued at over 6.5 million dollars.
Our donation: Henkaa staff spend time together to create shoeboxes for donations. We wear our ugly holiday sweaters, sip on hot chocolate and have a friendly competition to see who brings their shoebox-wrapping A-game.
New Circles provide clothing, necessities and training to those living in poverty. They operate the largest clothing bank in Toronto under the name of GLOW (Gently Loved Outfits to Wear), with 20,000 visits annually. New Circles help many newcomers, as well as in-need families, get on their feet.
Our donation: Over the past six years Henkaa has donated new products and gently used garments so that disadvantaged youth can have the opportunity to attend prom. In the past, we have also acted as a drop off location for their formal wear collection drive.
#MakeTodayMatter - Inspiration Gala was a special event organized by Valerie Crabbe with TD Bank in 24 hours. The event was a special evening to empower foster girls.
Our Donation: Convertible dresses and accessories
Gowns for Girls is an organization that provides grads in grade eight and grade 12 free prom and graduation dresses. They accept donations of dresses, jewellery and shoes.
Our Donation: Convertible dresses and accessories to help graduates in need of formal wear to help them look and feel their best.
The YWCA helps women and girls “flee violence, secure housing, find jobs, establish their voices, enhance skills and develop confidence.” They also engage in systemic advocacy.
Our Donation: New undergarments and multi-way bags for the Teen Mothers Program.
G Day is an annual event for tween girls ages 10 to 12 and their parents or supportive adults. It is a day that celebrates the transition between childhood and adolescence in these girls' lives. The day includes public speakers and confidence-boosting activities.
Our Donation: Henkaa was one of the sponsors for the event in 2018 and helped fill the swag bags for the youth; we also sponsored gifts for the volunteers and outfitted one of the key speakers Sarah Taylor.
Modern Mama Social helps plan events for moms so that they can meet other moms and local mompreneurs in the Greater Toronto Area, socialize and build a supportive community.
Our Donation: Raffle prizes and products for swag bags.
The Creative Zone accepts donations of supplies to “enhance and expand” classroom resources for teachers from the Peel District School Board, Kindergarten staff from the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board and child care operators in Peel to use.
Our donation: Textile waste and product donations
The Mon Sheong Foundation helps raise money to support Chinese children, youth and senior citizens. Henkaa's late founder, Jo's family were Chinese refugees from Vietnam.
Our Donation: Henkaa has supported this foundation's annual Cathay Ball for numerous years with silent auction items and table prizes.
MAC (Ministry to Africans in Canada) Camps Gala is an annual fundraising event. The objective? To raise money to provide refugee or immigrant children a camp experience.
Our Donation: Silent auction items and table swag to support the event in 2018 and 2019.