Have you seen people around Melbourne sporting hoodies marked with HOMIE? It’s not just a trending streetwear label (well, it is) but there’s more to it. HoMie is a fashion label, but it’s also a social enterprise that provides retail training and work opportunities for youth experiencing homelessness.
HoMie began when founders Marcus Crook and Nick Pearce started a photo project in 2014 called Homeless of Melbourne, which aimed to change the stigma around homelessness. Compelled to continue giving back to the community in some way, they launched the HoMie retail store in 2015, selling clothing donated by brands including Cotton On, Snowgum and Stussy.
Crook and Pearce began running in-store VIP days for the homeless, giving them an opportunity to come in and select clothing free of charge.
“Often people in these situations get kicked out of shopping malls,” says Crook. “We wanted to flip that on its head and create a dignified shopping experience.”
HoMie originally just sold donated clothes but after seeing the success of an original HoMie T-shirt, Crook and Pearce decided to launch their own fashion range.
HoMie is now a fully fledged streetwear label with a unisex range that includes T-shirts, long-sleeves, hoodies, sweatshirts and track pants. At the start of this year, HoMie secured a stable retail space on Brunswick Street. Before that, the store moved around as a pop-up in Melbourne Central.
Crook takes charge of design, serving up a mix of bold streetwear looks alongside more subdued, easy-to-wear pieces. He’s successfully tapped into all the directional streetwear trends of recent seasons – embroidered logos, millennial pink, pastel combos and flame sleeves. “I’m heavily influenced by street and skate culture,” he says. “Some designs have been influenced by Melbourne and Fitzroy like the Cityscape tee.”
HoMie aims to sustain its social programs through the sales of its fashion products, which puts Crook in a challenging position as designer.
“It’s a tricky spot where we have to cater not just to one demographic, but to the young kid and the mum coming in to buy for her husband,” he explains.
“I’m probably that 40-year-old mother going to the shops,” Pearce jokes, pointing out the difference between what he and Crook are wearing. Crook is in a bright orange hoodie, and Pearce in a white T-shirt – both are by HoMie. Indeed, for every vivid yellow tee in the range is an understated companion in a neutral colour.
HoMie sometimes collaborates with local artists to create screen-printed designs. At the end of this year, there’ll be a fresh collab with fellow social enterprise YEVU. Another woman-oriented line is also in the pipeline – last year HoMie 4 Her launched with basics in black, white, pastel pink and blue and denim – with plans to produce skirts, among other garments.
A surreal moment of validation for the brand’s clothing came when HoMie was recognised halfway across the world. “Our friend was wearing one of our shirts in London and he walked past these girls on the street,” Pearce says. “He heard them say ‘Hey that’s that brand HoMie I was talking about!’”
Although the brand has grown in recognition for its designs – the online shop is sending orders to the US and Brazil – Crook and Pearce are adamant that the label’s ethos and message is not lost.
HoMie is “a label for the streets” with all profits going to VIP days and training programs. Those who participate in the training program earn a Certificate III in Retail and are paid award rates to work shifts in the shop.
“We’re a launching pad for people to gain experience and get connected with young likeminded people,” Pearce says. “We want to show them that there is a community that cares and has their back.”