HE HELPED THOSE DISPLACED BY AN OREGON WILDFIRE
by Irina Ivanova
As the owner of two clothing production companies, Max Hamilton is used to pulling off last-minute miracles. “No one ever hits you up when things are going well,” says the Los Angeles entrepreneur. His primary enterprise, Limitless Production, specializes in quick-turnaround knitwear in small quantities; Basketcase Gallery, which he co-owns, designs monthly capsule collections and sells them via pop-up events in cities nationwide.
So when Hamilton, Fashion Merchandising Management ’16, learned last September that a horrific wildfire had destroyed homes and displaced 3,000 people in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, where he grew up, he leapt. Calling up his apparel industry contacts to buy or wrangle donations of sweatshirts, T-shirts, and blankets, he filled a U-Haul with nearly 40,000 garments and toiletries. On September 15, he, his sister, and his uncle made the 18-hour drive from Los Angeles to Medford, Oregon, while Hamilton coordinated with local volunteers and news stations from the truck’s cab.
Over a daylong giveaway in a high school parking lot, he and several volunteers handed out garments to locals who had lost their homes—many of whom Hamilton knew personally. The elementary school Hamilton was attended was especially hard hit, with 80 percent of the students being displaced, he says.
Trying to keep a positive attitude for the donation event, Hamilton did not take in the full extent of the fire damage until afterwards—and what he saw shook him. “Driving from one town to the other, there’s not a single building still standing,” he recalled. “It looked like it had been bombed.”
The experience has inspired him to find ways to use his skills for the public good. Once the pop-up events restart, he plans to include a community service component.
“The fashion industry as a whole is built on materialism. There’s often times when it’s great, and it’s fun and you say ‘Oh my gosh, we just did the impossible.’ But it’s also like, how are we contributing?” he says. Pulling together a feat of charity showed him another possibility. “This is how I can help going forward. I can use my position in this industry to help people.”