Suit Yourself Clothing Swap & Silent Auction

Local charity makes sure low-income women are dressed for success

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

Edmonton lawyer Karmen Masson began women's charity
'Suit Yourself' in 2002, helping some 1,700 local and
low-income women dress for success since

"ALONG with a handful of friends and family who volunteered weekly, we helped about 100 women that first year," remembers Karmen Masson, Executive Director of Edmonton-based charitable organization "Suit Yourself." She was referring to 2002, when she set up a makeshift refuge for low-income women seeking employment or transitioning into the workforce, and in need of free quality clothing. 

"My parents used to own a 90-year-old walk-up apartment building in the downtown area," explains Masson, "and there was a vacant space in the basement." That's where Masson, a full-time lawyer and mother, began collecting and distributing professional, fashionable, and free clothes for a cause unique to our city, one that might have you wondering, "Why didn't anyone think of this before?!"

"Over 10 years ago I was looking to create some good karma in my life," Masson continues. "I was leaving a bad relationship and trying to devote my energies into doing good for others. I was searching for a volunteer activity that would supplement my career as a lawyer and exercise my creative talents. I loved clothes and fashion, and I realized as a young lawyer at that time that I felt more confident and respected when I was well dressed." 

Since those humble beginnings, Masson was able to upgrade from her folks' basement boutique to "an underpopulated school in a central location that was willing to lease us a classroom for an affordable rate," and finally--as of Fall '09--into a street-front commercial space in Little Italy. "My dreams had come true!"

'Suit Yourself' Executive Director Karmen Masson, who was
selected last year as one of
Avenue magazine's
"Top 40 Under 40" Edmontonians making a difference
And it's that vision that has allowed the dreams of other local women to come true, too. 

"I love hearing from clients about their success stories," Masson says. "One woman told me that she was so inspired by the volunteers who suited her, that she called a former employer and asked if they had any job opportunities. Her former boss offered her a job, and when her wage was discussed, she felt confident enough to ask for a substantial increase in salary...and they gave it to her!"

These are the kinds of stories that occur on a regular basis, because of Masson and the volunteers over at "Suit Yourself" (10746-95 St./ 780-488-9930), which is why it's vital to keep their doors open. This Saturday (May 28) professional image consultant Joanne Blake and her "Style Power" team will host a "Clothing Swap & Silent Auction" from 11AM to 4PM, at the Quality Inn (West Harvest) on 178th Street and Stoney Plain Road. 

"They have called it a clothing swap, but they are simply collecting quality business attire and accessories in advance of the event, and then they will be selling the items for very reasonable prices." All of the proceeds will be donated to "Suit Yourself." 

To donate or attend the "Clothing Swap & Silent Auction," call Paula at 780-701-2990, or contact her via email at paula@creatingpeoplepower.ca.


(PHOTO COURTESY OF AVENUE MAGAZINE)


Below is a video clip from the CBC, featuring Masson and 'Suit Yourself,' from 2010. 

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