Brian Lieberman is no fashion designer. He’s just a 24-year-old guy from Rockville, who believes the homeless should have warm new hats, scarves and gloves to withstand frigid weather.
Lieberman in August 2010 founded Twice as Warm, a winter apparel company that matches every purchase with a donation of the same item to local shelters, including Bright Beginnings in the District and Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria. In the first six months of operation, he gave away 210 new clothing items. This winter, with an expanded catalogue, he is aiming for 300.
Twice as Warm apparel ranges in price from $16 cable knit gloves to $30 long-sleeve shirts. The pieces are purchased wholesale and embroidered with a white polar bear. Most items are for adults, but Lieberman recently introduced $16 fleece hats for kids to extend donations to underprivileged schools in the area.
“The focus is helping people,” he said, “and creating a brand that people are engaged with so they know when they buy from us they are helping people in their community.”
Lieberman got the idea for Twice as Warm after dropping off a donation at the Interfaith Works Clothing Center in Rockville last summer. While there, he noticed bags upon bags of threadbare winter clothing for the homeless. The cast-offs from well-meaning donors were, in many cases, riddled with holes.
“People have good intentions, but you have to consider that someone has to be able to wear what you’re giving away,” he said.
Lieberman turned to the business model used by California-based footwear company Tom’s, which donates a new pair of shoes to a child for every pair sold.
“I figured if we set it up as a buy one, [give] one model, it would create a sustainable way of providing new clothing,” he said. “And hopefully, we could also connect people with shelters and charities in their area.”
Using his earnings as a Web designer, Lieberman spent a little less than $3,000 buying clothes that first season. He took orders and packaged goods from his parents’ basement, employing their help, along with his sister and girlfriend, to keep the supply chain running smoothly.
Operations have moved into a new space: his apartment. Lieberman, who estimates he will outlay up to $5,000 this year for clothes, is bringing on two interns for assistance. With its low overhead, Twice as Warm is projected to turn a profit by the end of the year.
Lieberman hopes to turn his side project into a full-time job one day as the business grows. For now, he is content to “open people’s minds to the fact that a lot of folks are in a tough spot and need help.”