Designed to help others

For many people, the number 747 may bring a certain Boeing aircraft to mind. For Harper Kidder, it is a much deeper connection.

The Oakland University psychology student’s new Rochester-based clothing line named 747 will launch on May 20.

Inspired by Kidder’s good friends, the line of T-shirts and hoodie jackets combine his interests in fashion as well as his desire to give to charities.

The name and concept stemmed from various late night conversations Kidder had with his best friends, as well as a running inside joke.

“We would always gather at my house and find something to do when everyone got there. This went on for years and years,” said Kidder. “One of the most bizarre things we noticed was that the doorbell would ring and it would be 7:47 p.m.”

Kidder began turning the project he once just spoke about in casual conversations into a reality shortly after he moved out on his own.

Charity has always been a part of his life, as his mother founded Band of Angels, an organization that strives to support families of individuals with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities.

After moving out, Kidder realized that he had little extra money to spend on himself, let alone give to charity.

“I just thought that you should not have to choose between buying a new T-shirt and helping people or giving to charity,” said Kidder.

In early February, Kidder had enough money to jump into the online retail business venture, and everything has seemingly fallen into place since then.

“Harper grew up with a sense of giving back: it is pretty natural to him,” said his mother Cynthia Kidder. “He wanted to merge commerce and charity in a really unique way and I think it is exciting the way he’s doing it.”

While his girlfriend Abby Hartmann is influential in his clothing design, a personal inspiration to Kidder is his younger brother Jordan.

Jordan, 19, has Down syndrome and has just finished his first year of college studies toward becoming a veterinary assistant.

“He has achieved more than anyone ever said he could,” said Kidder of his brother. “Seeing his success had helped me believe I can do this.”

Because he grew up in the Rochester area, he has a invested interest in partnering with local talent and seeing local business grow.

Though he has a lot of interest in graphic design and product development — the making of clothes — Kidder readily admits that he has never been at the forefront of fashion, but simply likes cool clothes.

“I am fortunate enough to know a lot of young talented designers in the Rochester area,” said Kidder. “[They have] contributed a lot to the design aspect and I think people are really going to like it.”

The designs were stimulated by an interest in tattoo art and graffiti.

Kidder currently has 10 tattoos and believes that tattoo artists are some of the most talented people one will ever meet because of their creative and improvisation abilities.

“I think that it will be really refreshing after years of the general Hollister fashions – relatively the same,” said Kidder. “There is a lot of creativity and design and actual artwork; it is something beautiful.”

Profits will go to benefit charities like Band of Angels, the Vista Maria organization, which is Michigan’s largest private not-for-profit child welfare group for women and their families, or Paint a Miracle, a program in Rochester that teaches people with cognitive impairments and other disabilities how to make art.

Kidder hopes to form lasting partnerships with the above organizations as well as many others.

“I am really proud that his core values, that he is starting a business that will help others,” said Cynthia Kidder. “I think it is exciting to see a young person do something innovative and new.”

The launch party for the clothing line’s website will take place in the Rochester venue The Factory at 7 p.m. on May 20.

Admission is free, and partygoers can purchase 747 wares and vote for any new pieces they wish to see in the future via the website.

Kidder took a semester away from his studies at OU due to financial reasons, but plans to keep pursuing his degree in psychology with a concentration on linguistics.

The success of his clothing line will also determine the fate of any future business-related goals.

“Whether it succeeds or fails, I have already learned a great deal,” Kidder said. “I do not think you can learn any other way than by doing.”