Many will testify to the account that 2020 changed everything. Some will assign it as the year they lost the most, while others were lucky enough to bear something positive amidst the chaos. For former Vogue Digital Director Anne-Marie Tomchak, the story behind her social enterprise ShareJoy lies somewhere in the middle.
Tomchak’s relationship with the two pillars that had defined her career – fashion and technology – began to change significantly during the pandemic.
Her increased time spent online began to take its toll on her wellbeing, and keeping up-to-date with the latest luxury fashion item soon seemed trivial.
At the same time, Tomchak’s editorial focus began to shift towards how the pandemic is affecting young people. Through her investigative journalism she discovered that the Gen-Z demographic is the one that stands to lose the most from the pandemic, and the ones that will suffer most with their mental health.
“The more I looked into it the more I felt more needs to be done to support young people during this time. Their mental health is being deeply impacted during all of this,” Tomchak said in a recent webinar run by DCU Style and DCU JournoSoc.
It wasn’t until Tomchak received a call from close friend Maeve McMahon in autumn 2020 that she began to streamline these factors into a force for positive change.
“Maeve told me really sad news about a childhood friend of hers who lost her daughter, 23-year-old Arwen Sullivan [to suicide], in the first few weeks of lockdown in April 2020,” Tomchak said.
Hearing about Arwen, her talent, her passion for yoga and mindfulness and her delight in pre-loved fashion and Depop purchases guided Tomchak to draw the parallels between everything she was already reckoning with.
And so the idea for ShareJoy was born. What Tomchak describes as a “hybrid between a Depop shop and a magazine” ShareJoy launched on Depop with a curated edit of 20 items from accomplished Irish women.
These women donated items from their wardrobes that hold special memories for them and serve a joyful purpose in their lives.
Now, the shop is open with monthly star listings and Depop drops, as well as ongoing content about the circular economy and useful resources about mental health.
All proceeds from the pre-loved garments go towards their designated charity Pieta, which offers help for people in distress and provides support for bereaved families.
Tomchak brought the concept of ShareJoy to Marie Sullivan, Arwen’s mother, and suggested the idea of it being put together in Arwen’s honour.
ShareJoy would channel Arwen’s passion for sustainability and fashion by using Depop as a place where people could donate their garments of joy and raise money for charity in return.
The faces behind the fashion are Irish women who have leveraged conversations around mental health, fashion and sustainability.
From women such as Roz Purcell, Louise McSharry, Dr Doireann O’Leary and IamIrish founder Lorraine Maher, each woman has a positive, powerful contribution to make that extends far beyond a piece of clothing.
“We share content around wellbeing and fashion and the circular economy. The idea is to use the circular economy (existing resources) to support the third sector (charities and nonprofits),” Tomchak said.
Tomchak also wanted sustainability to be a fundamental principle of how the project would work as it plays a big role in her personal life. In the last five years she has found that her whole outlook on fashion has changed.
“I personally believe sustainability is the single most important issue and the climate crisis is the single most important story of our lifetime,” she added.
Fashion and technology have swiftly become forces of negative influences and social media is often conducive to poor mental health.
Unrealistic standards of perfection, self-comparison and toxic ideals of what young people “should be” have been established on social media. ShareJoy has found an intersection between fashion and technology that aims to change that.
The project launched on Blue Monday, the 18th of January, a day conventionally consigned to despondency and gloom, but as ShareJoy has proved, it’s never too late to rewrite conventional narratives.
To find out more about the project or to donate, visit ShareJoy.ie or see ShareJoy on Depop and @sharejoy_ie on Instagram
Readers affected by this story can reach out for help and support from the Samaritans on 116 123 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Authors: Trudy Feenane & Kinga Piotrowska
Image Credit: Joanne Warren Moore