DESIGNING FOR A GOOD CAUSE
“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
This quote from Hannah Gadsby’s powerful and timely Nanette special on Netflix is a mantra that rings true with so many women. Especially women who are clients of Dress for Success Sydney (DFSS), a not-for-profit organisation known for its tireless work in helping disadvantaged women become self-sufficient, independent and successful.
DFSS strives to instil clients with the confidence to enter or re-enter the workforce through training courses and being pampered with a free, new wardrobe. The women who come to them via referrals from various agencies all have their individual stories to tell, but they all have one thing in common: they are all rebuilding themselves – and they are all stronger than ever before.
For an organisation that deserves all the accolades in the world for the amazing work it does, it’s hardly surprising that DFSS placed far more priority on its clients than the presentation of its showroom.
Up until last month, its showroom in Sydney’s inner-west was an open space that was dated, dark, cluttered and lacked efficiency. Fortunately, it received community grants for a much-needed refurbishment, but there was more work needed than they could afford to do.
Enter ARA Interiors, who came on board with the determination to transform DFSS’ showroom into a lavish boutique despite the limited budget. Led by Cindy Pellegrino and her hands-on approach to the project, ARA Interiors were able to engage trades and suppliers who were willing to donate part of their time and reduce costs for DFSS.
“What I did was to understand how they work and what was the best design solution to overcome each challenge,” Pellegrino recalled. “We prioritised and redesigned the layout of the two main spaces that the clients spend more time at: the reception and the dressing room. I brought a feeling of luxury and exclusive experience to their clients by eliminating the visual clutter of clothing, shoes, bags, etc. Basically, the volunteer stylists are the ones who serve the clients and choose the right clothes for each lady on a one-on-one basis, so I thought that the best way was to leave a room free of clothes, so clients could feel looked after instead of being distracted or overwhelmed. They could just enjoy their time being pampered.”
Thanks to creative and budget-friendly decisions that aimed to have a positive impact on the volunteers’ and clients’ experience, it made sense to call the new showroom Bliss Boutique.
The reception is now a clean space with soft colours and textures and cute features such as pink details on artwork and cushions and a mirrored wall feature. The window bars were also ditched to make way for custom-designed drapery that allows in a vast amount of natural light, which cuts the otherwise harsh industrial look with delicate fabrics and colours.
The dressing room is far more efficient than it was before, with improvements that allow the space for multi-use. New change rooms tracks were also attached to the walls and ceiling, making the space look even bigger when all curtains are open and allowing the organisation to host events there if they wish. But more than anything, the dressing room is now clutter free, and feels luxurious.
DFSS was blown away by the work done to their reception and dressing room.
“Our clients deserve the very best experience when they visit us and Cindy has created a warm, inviting and beautiful space,” CEO Ursula McGeown said. “Every time I look at the finished product all I can say is wow!”
DFSS operations manager Sally Hetherington echoed her boss’ sentiments. “Words cannot possibly describe how amazing Cindy is. She transformed our not-for-profit and took our showroom from an op-shop to a boutique,” she said. “Our team and clients will be forever grateful for her kindness.”
Pellegrino said she was proud to have been involved in this project. She felt DFSS’ clients more than deserved the best experience in that showroom, and hoped that the new Bliss Boutique created a warm, inviting, beautiful but also efficient space. She also hoped clients now feel even more special and volunteers were more motivated to help them. After all, there is nothing stronger than a woman who has rebuilt herself.
Article written by editor and journalist Elias Jahshan