Even amid quarantine, Tan France wants people to make an effort.
“If you’re wanting to be taken seriously, if you’re wanting people to see you as a desirable prospect in any sense of the word — whether it be relationship or career — I think it’s important to make some effort in your styling choices,” France told WWD. “I know many people think clothes don’t matter. It’s just on your body, who cares? It really does matter if you’re wanting to achieve success in something and to get people to respect you. The choices that you make sartorially really affect your mood for the day.”
It’s that attitude that the designer, author and television personality carries with him on his many projects, including “Queer Eye,” “MasterClass,” “Next in Fashion” and his partnership with Express.
That’s why when the retailer asked him to host the first Dream Big Day, a virtual summit to kick off Express’ new Dream Big Project, France said it was a no-brainer.
“They’re wanting to help people who, well, dream big,” France said. “That was me. I had a dream to open my own brand many years ago. I didn’t know how to make it work and I managed to achieve it.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Express’ “rallying cry,” as Sara Tervo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Express, said, is to “dream big and dress accordingly.”
“We believe clothes and accessories can help create confidence and inspire self expression,” Tervo explained. “But we can do more. And we can do that by supporting causes and organizations that do that kind of work for individuals and help people chase their dreams and create confidence.”
Hence, the Dream Big Project. Starting this month, Express will choose a different organization each quarter to support. The first is the Small Business Relief Fund, which helps independently owned small businesses nationwide that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Each week the fund disperses micro-grants to qualifying businesses.
Express is kicking off the project with the Dream Big Day Summit hosted by France this Thursday. The virtual event will feature special guests talking such topics as style, sports, advocacy and career advice.
Former professional football player Dale Moss, actor Jonathan Bennett, model Imani Randolph, podcaster Rob Howe, NBA player John Collins, soccer player Alex Morgan, fashion influencer Brittany Xavier and model and activist Iskra Lawrence, are all scheduled to speak.
“It was important for me to be a part of Express’ Dream Big [Day] virtual summit to continue to share how I cultivate the confidence to love myself through my work as a body-confidence advocate and now as a new mom,” Lawrence said. “I’m a huge advocate for brands creating positive spaces and encouraging the self-love conversation.”
Viewers can sign up for the summit, which begins at 5 p.m. EST on Sept. 17, at express.com/dreambigproject. Tickets are pay-as-you-please. Express will match donations on the day of the event up to $50,000. All proceeds benefit the Dream Big Fund.
Shoppers can also donate to the fund through the GoFundMe partner page, as well as in Express stores and online starting Sept. 17.
The Dream Big Project is ongoing, but the retailer has designated Sept. 17 as its annual Dream Big Day. Express will select additional organizations to support that share its core values of love, equality, unity and a commitment to empowering people to follow their dreams, Tervo said.
“We want to make sure we’re extremely inclusive with all of our partnerships and all of the people who are recipients,” she explained. “There are a number of small businesses that support, or are owned and led by, different races and different backgrounds. So we’re looking to support all different kinds of small businesses.”
Since March, the Small Business Relief Fund has raised approximately $2.4 million. Express’ micro-grant amounts have not yet been determined, but all entrepreneurs and small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and that have raised at least $500 through their own GoFundMe page. Recipients of the grants through the Dream Big Project must use the funds to pay employees or for other business-related expenses.
Express will also choose “small business heroes,” or business owners, to promote along Express’ web site, social media channels and Labels We Love, an edited collection of the retailer’s favorite third-party brands.