Dover natives Michael and Erick Hamme have taken the thrift store concept and put a generation Y spin on it.
The Caesar Rodney grads have essentially created a virtual thrift store called Tr*be.
With Macklemore's song "Thrift Shop" blowing up the airwaves and the emerging popularity of the concept of second-hand fashion, thrift stores run by organizations like Good Will and the Salvation Army have become as trendy as leggings as pants. Dover natives Michael and Erick Hamme have taken the thrift store concept and put a generation Y spin on it.
The Caesar Rodney grads have essentially created a virtual thrift store called Tr*be. The lack of an "I" in the word tribe is a wink and a nod to the company philosophy.
"In the end it's about looking good, but it's also about making a statement of generosity and selflessness," said Erick Hamme, co-founder and creative director for the company.
The concept behind the company is that young adults from all over the country will send their gently used clothes, free of charge, to company headquarters in Chicago. The clothes will then be washed, inspected, and those that are up to snuff will have a Tribe logo patch sewed onto them and finally they will be photographed and listed online.
"The logo is a tribal symbol," Hamme said. "It symbolizes the three worlds, but they're all connected into one tribe."
When a shopper comes along and purchases an item, they gain access to more affordable clothing, with most items priced between $12 and $15. They are also putting their money towards a good cause.
Any profit that is left over after Tr*be pays their employees and covers overhead cost is donated to three charities: World Vision, which helps with community development in Africa; International Justice Mission, an organization that is working to fight the sex-slave trade; and Blood and water, an aid program that provides clean water and HIV treatment to people in Africa.
Tr*be is still in its infancy, with its website having launched last summer, but its official public launch was last week. The company is currently in the process of raising funds to get the project fully off the ground. The brothers are using indiegogo.com as a way to collect donations and show potential investors that there is an interest in the concept they've created.
The Hammes came up with the concept for Tr*be in 2011 while they were shopping at a mall while visiting their parents in Florida over the Christmas holiday.
"We were talking about how common it is for people to buy new clothes, wear them a few times and then get tired of them," Erick Hamme said.
With such a revolving door of trends and a short shelf life for clothes, the brothers felt there had to be a way to tap into that excess of clothing and use them for a good cause. They targeted young adults because Erick being 25 and Michael being 29, they are part of Generation Y.
"Our generation, 30 and under, doesn't have a lot of money but everyone has a huge closet full of clothes, that's material wealth," Erick Hamme said. "I think the younger generation does have a heart for those who are less fortunate or were born into circumstances that we can't even imagine. Many of them want to help, they just aren't financially able to."
The clothes that are currently stocking the Tr*be store were picked up by the Hamme brothers as they drove cross-country to relocate to Chicago, a city they chose for its central location, which the pair hope will make shipping easier.
Once the boys get their feet under them they will set up a warehouse and begin to accept donations. Those that donate will become Tr*be members and will be given major discounts.
"We want to spoil our members," Erick Hamme said. "We want to make them feel like the most special people in the world."
The concept of giving back is one that Erick and Michael grew up with. Their father worked for many years as a pastor and later began working in the non-profit sector. They knew they wanted to find a way to make a difference.
Aside from offering young adults the opportunity to give back, the company also offers them the ability to stand out from the crowd.
"Each item is unique," Erick Hamme said. "When you buy a shirt from Tr*be you won't be buying a shirt that 500 other people have just bought at the mall."
Tr*be currently only deals in recycled clothing but the company has a desire to create clothing of their own, with the help of some local talent.
"There are a lot of young designers who are out of work because the fashion world isn't hiring. We have a lot of talent that we can tap into," Erick Hamme said. "We want to build a line of new clothing, not clothes made in sweat shops, clothes made here."
The windy city may be the birthplace of Tr*be but the Hammes have their eyes set east.
"We have to get back east," Erick Hamme said. "It's freezing here. We still have family in the Dover- Camden area. We get back when we can. It's nice to get back."