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Detroit Designs Making a Difference: Alum Uses Fashion to Help Homeless

By Kait Kisel, student writer

In the heart of Detroit resides a Broad College of Business alumnus with a mission. Josh York (BA Supply Chain Management ’16), founder of York Project, a clothing company started in 2012 that gives back to cities in need, began his mission with the desire to contribute to Detroit’s renaissance.

york project
Josh York developed his business with a mission to help the homeless. “Our main metric in measuring success is the number of people we have the ability to help,” he said. [photo credit: York Project]
“I always dreamt of having my own clothing line as a kid. I started off screen printing band tees for my band in 2013 before starting to print my own name on stuff which I would take to concerts and sell to my friends,” York said. “I knew I might be onto something and decided to find a way to give back.”

Inspired by the one-for-one model used by TOMS, York adapted the business principles to a local demographic. For every product the York Project sells, the company makes a donation kit to give to the homeless. The kits include a durable tote bag, toilet paper, socks, and bottled water. Since 2012 York Project has made over 22,000 donations in 23 American cities from coast to coast.

York Project’s designs are inspired by York’s life, which he notes has changed over the years. The designs, originally influenced by the music scene, have now progressed to sitting between streetwear and upscale basics. “I try to experience as much as I can in the world and learn from what’s happening around me. This then translates into the designs of the clothing,” he explained.

York reflects on his values that are mirrored in the company noting, “I am a people person through and through. I’m motivated by people. It fascinates me how each of us is so different, yet we’re all human. I’m legitimately interested in every person that I meet. This is why I love YP, because it allows me to do what I love; designing and making clothing, while also meeting so many great people and making a difference.”

While establishing York Project, York learned many things such as how to manage people, time, and money. Most important, he recalls, was learning about the homeless and how individuals could make a difference in breaking the cycle within the Detroit community and beyond.

Some of York’s proudest moments for the company include their recent partnership with Shinola Detroit as well as the opening of their holiday store in the renowned Twelve Oaks Mall. Both of which, York states, have been, “‘we’ve made it!’ type moments along with great validation that we’re doing things correctly and legitimate players in the industry believe in our mission.”

Future goals for York Project include switching to more manufacturing in 2018. The company hopes to establish a facility in Detroit where they can make their first hire of someone in a shelter looking to rejoin the workforce. York Project hopes to scale up the company such that it would ultimately be able to train and employ people in need, cycling them into careers.

York states, “Our main metric in measuring success is the number of people we have the ability to help.”


Eli Broad College of Business

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