This LA teen nonprofit holds free clothing pop-ups for low-income, homeless girls

This LA teen nonprofit holds free clothing pop-ups for low-income, homeless girls

SheStyles is the brainchild of Brooke Friedman, left, and her younger sister, JoJo, shown at one of their free shopping events on Saturday, April 27, 2024, at the William Mead Homes in Lincoln Heights . (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

By Steve Scauzillo, LA Daily News

When teen sisters Brooke and JoJo Friedman cleaned out their closets during the pandemic, they filled up trash bags with unwanted clothes. As they prepared to haul the stuff to a shelter for women and children, they stopped, thinking there had to be a better way.

That’s how SheStyles was born.

Instead of picking through piles of discards, young girls and women in need of clothing can now peruse restored, pressed and even new garments that are carefully categorized on racks at boutique-style pop-up shops held where they live. The shoppers get assistance from JoJo and Brooke and from personal stylists who’ve volunteered.

The SheStyles way offers girls real-life shopping sprees but with one difference: Everything is always free.

“I was stressing out about what was going to happen to these donation bags,” explained Brooke, now 18, but 16 when she and her sister started holding free shopping events throughout Los Angeles County. “In my head, the clothing donation process was not as personal as you wanted it to be.”

“We tend to target teen girls,” said JoJo, now 16, but only 14 when she and her sister started the nonprofit. “We understand what it’s like to be a teen girl and how clothing can play a big part in her self-confidence. All girls love going shopping.”

With help from mom, Shari Friedman, who is well-acquainted with the business of philanthropy, the nonprofit has held seven pop-up clothing giveaways over about two years.

The two girls from Brentwood who attend Brentwood School started a school club where they recruited volunteers to support the nonprofit. They held used clothing drives using social media and even found a wholesaler in Van Nuys who needed to unload some overstock, said Friedman.

The two teenagers held their two largest events on Saturday, April 27 at the William Mead Homes in Los Angeles, a city-owned low-income housing development near Chinatown, and on Sunday, April 28, at KIPP Scholar Academy in South L.A. In total, about 82 shoppers picked out clothing and accessories and most left with several bags full, they said.

“With every girl we work with, we are doing more than putting clothes on her back,” said Shari Friedman. “We are making a memory for her. Hopefully she feels really special.”

Ahead of the pop-up clothing giveaways, the two girls collect lists from shoppers who have registered and who provide their style preferences and sizes, usually with the help of a partnering nonprofit. But sometimes there’s a kid who can’t stay away who wasn’t registered.

At William Mead, the team was greeted by 7-year-old Amir, bouncing a basketball and beckoning, “Are there any clothes for me?” Brooke, who plays on her high school basketball team, found the boy a unisex, green hoodie adorned with the number 34, and white block letters across the back with the name of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the rest of the day, little Amir wore the oversized sweatshirt that came down to his knees. After the event, Brooke shot hoops with the boy.

It’s the personal connection, mostly with teen girls who are shopping, that the pair enjoy the most about their events.

In December 2022, they held a pop-up shop at the United Friends of the Children offices, a group that supports foster youth. Many girls in foster care homes came to shop, some brought friends or their foster parents. Afterward, the shoppers left handwritten notes hung on the Christmas tree as ornaments.

“One said: ‘You made my day,’” remembered JoJo. “Another wrote: ‘This is an experience I never had. You brought me so much joy.’” Added Brooke: “It was incredibly heartwarming to read those notes.”

Their mom recalled the foster parents’ casual conversations as being particularly meaningful. “A parent said to me their kid had never been shopping before,” she said. “Not when you are bouncing around from one home to the next.”

JoJo and Brooke said it’s not uncommon for unhoused girls to shop and walk away with bags of clothes.

At the KIPP school in South L.A., a school administrator asked the two girls if she could shop for three middle-school students who were homeless and could not make it to the event. The eighth graders were of similar age to JoJo and Brooke when they started SheStyles.

“To be doing good for kids, almost the same age as they are that are homeless, is pretty amazing,” said Friedman.

At the William Mead home, SheStyles partnered with Project Soar, a nonprofit based in Chinatown serving southern and eastern Los Angeles with academic, college and career guidance for residents living in public housing.

“It is really impactful for a lot of girls who probably have one piece of everything to wear,” said Niña Abonal, program director for Project Soar.

“Our clients are low-income students,” Abonal said. “They leave with bags of clothing and huge smiles on their faces knowing they have something to wear on the first day of school.”

The day before the recent Saturday pop-up shop the two girls walked through their garage packed with 10 racks of clothes, getting ready to load them onto vans. The clothes were neatly arranged by sweatshirts, jeans and tops. Even certain brands asked for on the shoppers’ forms were found.

“We had a lot of girls say they like Brandy Melville. It is a very popular brand for crop tops and T-shirts,”  said JoJo.

Their donation drives emphasize only high-quality clothing. No holes. No tears. Nothing thread-barren, JoJo said. At times they’ve used their own birthday money to buy new clothes. “We also have clothes for girls who wear plus-size clothing,” she added.

Middle school girls like outfits that resemble pajamas, she said, pulling a onesie romper off the rack. “For younger girls, this will be a hit,” JoJo said.

Styles that are more unisex may work well for those who’ve checked off that they are transgender males or others who don’t want feminine-style clothing, the pair said. “We have served transgender people,” said Brooke.

They also loaded their van with portable mirrors and big tents used as pop-up dressing rooms. Outfits are displayed on racks to simulate a real store atmosphere. The two also wrap each item in tissue paper and pack them in bags stamped with the SheStyles logo. “Sometimes we’ll add a little lip balm and hair ties,” JoJo said.

The name SheStyles represents them as girls and that “she” is helping other girls. And it also refers to shoppers on the receiving end who don’t just get a bag of clothes to wear, but instead get particular items that fit their own taste and “styles.”

“It has a dual meaning. It is girls empowering girls,” said JoJo.

For more information, visit their website at

This story was originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News.