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Old suits get charitable makeover

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2014
fashion project

FASHION PROJECT: Head of fashion at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design Belinda Watt and co-owner of French-83 Vivian Cheng.

Chace and family
Mike Scott
GOOD CAUSE: Keri and Ryan Topperwien with their son Chace, in 2011.

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Everyone wins with The Restyle Project.

Men's suit company French-83 has teamed up with Whitecliffe College of Art and Design for a charity initiative which will benefit the families of children with cancer.

Kiwis can donate pre-loved suits to be redesigned by Whitecliffe fashion students and auctioned on Trade Me.

Those who donate suits get a $250 voucher to spend at French-83 and the proceeds of the auction go to the Dream Chaser Foundation.

There is also something in it for the student designer whose recycled suit attracts the highest price on Trade Me.

They will get the chance to team up with French-83 to design suits for the international market.

The Dream Chaser Foundation was set up two years ago by Whakatane couple Ryan and Keri Topperwien.

Their three-year-old son Chace died in June 2012 from acute myeloid leukaemia.

Businessmen Eric Watson and Owen Glenn were planning a fundraising rugby league game involving the Warriors to help Chase, but he died before it could be played.

"We'd talked earlier about starting a charity and they said ‘we'd still like to run the match', would you like to launch the charity at the game?" Ryan says.

It was an incredibly tough time but the opportunity was not one to pass up, he says.

Ryan, Keri, and their baby son Zayn have moved in with family so they can run the charity full time.

"It's been tough financially but money isn't everything.

"It's been really good. It helps us with healing as well. And it's been good to be able to do something good in our son's name.

"Chase was a caring boy, I guess because everyone was so caring of him. There would be days when he could be lying in a hospital bed with a 40-degree temperature and I might cough or something. Straight away he'd sit up and say ‘Are you OK daddy?

"We knew he'd want us to help others," Ryan says.

Funds raised from the Restyle Project will make a big difference to Ryan and Keri's efforts.

"Most of our time is taken up organising events and just trying to find funds to pass on to families. We really appreciate it when companies want to do fundraising for us," Ryan says.

French-83 is run by Vivian Cheng and her brother Peter.

At the moment it sells online only but a company in Hong Kong is looking to sell its suits in its stores. Vivian and Peter see this as an opportunity to showcase New Zealand's style and are on the lookout for a up-and-coming Kiwi designer.

The Restyle Project is a way to identify this person and do something good at the same time, she says.

"It's killing two birds with one stone - everyone wins.

"We were just really inspired by how Ryan and Keri have managed to turn what happened into something positive," Vivian says.

Suits can be donated until July 27. Visit french-83.com/the-restyle-project for more information.

Visit dreamchaser.co.nz to donate to the Dream Chaser Foundation.

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