Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


“Here’s an act of random kindness… Put some bloody trousers on!”

ark attack
Move over organised religion. There’s a new game in town.

You’re a non-profit company that manufactures underpants. Is that correct?
No, no… We are ARK. It stands for Acts of Random Kindness. We’re a clothing brand with a big idea. Every time a customer wears something of ours, we ask them to perform one random act of kindness that day. We pay ourselves a wage, but any profits we make beyond that are invested back into the company to spread the message. Extra monies we make further down the line will go into a charitable fund. It started out with t-shirts, but we’ve since branched out into Ark Underwear… For Undercover Kindness! Where did the idea originate?
My business partner Cameron Stewart began importing clothes and selling them on eBay when he was 14. Four years later, in 2008, he had the idea of using clothing to promote his ‘Arking’ lifestyle. Between blogs and word of mouth, it has grown into a massive movement or tribe on college campuses. We have 7,000 Facebook followers and each Friday we suggest acts of kindness for them to perform.

So, basically, every time I wear your underwear, I have to help an old lady across the street?
No, it could be anything from giving up your seat on the bus, to buying a homeless person lunch or even just making your friend a playlist. The idea is that every time you throw on an Ark t-shirt in the morning, you know that at some point during the day you’re going to do something nice for someone. Now obviously, we won’t go around checking up on you. But people really do buy into the idea.

Tell us what’s happening in this photograph here (above).
Last month, to celebrate the launch of Ark Underwear, a group of final year Trinity students walked into the Gorta charity shop on Liffey Street. They stripped down to their underwear and donated all of their clothes to the shop – much to the surprise of customers and staff! I suppose we’re trying to demonstrate that giving doesn’t have to be a serious, saintly pursuit. It can be fun and creative.

Did any passers-by say, “Here’s an act of random kindness… Put some trousers on!”
(laughs) Well, some people might have considered a bunch of pasty Irish guys cavorting around the city centre at lunchtime like that an unwanted intrusion. But by and large, it was well received!

Are people ever wary or suspicious when you try to do something nice for them?
Well, they say Irish people tend to be good givers but mean receivers. And there have certainly been times when I’ve tried to help someone with their shopping, say, and they’ve reacted as though I was trying to rob them. There is a certain cynicism out there, for sure. But as this movement grows, I think a lot of that will be dispelled.

On your website, you talk about a new tribe of people living a different sort of lifestyle. A movement “defined and carried by the people who believe in it…”
Yes, the concept is to create a movement around the brand. Something that people can believe in. So when we talk about a tribe, we’re talking about a group of people who are really loyal to the brand. It all comes from word of mouth, from people who believe in the concept coming together.

Not to labour the point… But these people would identify together on the basis of wearing the same underpants?
No, it’s not about wearing the same underpants. It’s about identifying around a new way of life. Since the Celtic Tiger ended, people have been searching for new values and a new source of morality. The institutions that once provided these things have recently been found wanting. So Ark provides a new framework by which people can pursue a better way of life. That’s what it offers.

Building a happier society in which people are kinder to each other – that’s a pretty ambitious target for a young start-up company…
Of course it’s ambitious. We want to make Ark a global brand and a global movement. But at the same time, progress never comes from one idea, or one person, or one organisation alone. It comes from everyone realising that their happiness is inextricably linked with the happiness of others. They may come to that realisation through engaging with us, watching a documentary or even just getting an education. If enough people do that, it’ll have it’s own impact.

One last question. If someone bought the t-shirt without reading the terms and conditions, would they still be obliged to perform acts of kindness every day?
(laughs) Yes. Yes, you would!

Ark t-shirts and underwear retail from €9 at www.arkhq.com

May 4th, 2010.

5 Responses to ““Here’s an act of random kindness… Put some bloody trousers on!””

  1. Denise Says:

    It sort of seems like you’re not entirely convinced about the whole underpants saving the world thing. Would one be right?

  2. Eoin Says:

    Some of their followers on Facebook seemed a bit put out by that too!

  3. susan Says:

    They’re very popular in Trinity so don’t think your article went down well at all

  4. gueuleton Says:

    If we were all nice to each other the world would be a better place. You know I’m amazed someone hadn’t thought of that before…

  5. Eoin Says:

    Oh, someone did have that idea before Gueleton. He had long hair and some crazy ideas. His name was Michael Jackson. He was the King of Pop.

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