One simple way I learned a big lesson
It began, almost by accident… a small production issue with some blue and white striped Seafolly towels. I noticed that the blue bleached slightly into the white. At $49 a towel our customer was not going to be happy. So, stuck with quite a few towels I had two options: dump and claim the loss or find something better to do with them.
Food, shelter, clothing and companionship
I contacted a local charity and asked whether the towels would be of any value to them. The towels were immediately and gratefully accepted. As I got to know this small charity, I discovered that they were providing over 30 people with all their basic needs – food, shelter, clothing and companionship. The place was busy. Case workers on the phone trying to find short and long-term accommodation. A doctor had given her time to help with some of the medical issues. A group of volunteers were preparing lunch, kindly donated by Oz Harvest. And while all this was happening I noticed something that did not feel right. Clients were rummaging through a pile of old clothes that sat in broken cardboard boxes. I knew there was a better way to hep them find clothes. I wanted to provide that help and I knew how I could contribute. I could help providing access to clothing.
The importance of collaboration of services by charities
Through contacting friends in the fashion industry I soon had gathered a large amount of clothes. New clothes that most likely were destined for landfill. The following week we delivered these clothes. I was moved by what I saw. Men, women and children were able to find clothing and shoes for themselves. The excitement, the relief and the appreciation was great. There was a choice of styles and sizes and the clothes were new.
It was this experience that began the journey of Thread Together. It made me see of the importance of collaboration of services by charities, to achieve the optimum outcome for people needing help.
And so we began to quietly tick away. In 2012 everything about Thread Together was small … we worked out of a small corner in the Seafolly warehouse, with a few dedicated staff who were happy to sort clothes once the office lights were turned off. My SUV was the mode of transport.
Fast forward to 2017 and Thread Together is still quietly ticking away. The difference is that instead of clothing 30 clients from one charity, we have now clothed 100,000 clients from over 100 charities with the support of more than 20 clothing partners.
The idea and the foresight to get some great people on board
I am not telling you this remarkable figure to brag. I just had the idea and the foresight to get some great people on board. The credit for the achievements that I am so very proud of really belong to many others.
The Seafolly infrastructure provided us with everything we needed – a warehouse, people, boxes and tape. And then there was Gary Perlstein from SFG – our first fashion partner – who enabled Thread Together to scale up – from collecting hundreds of clothes to thousands of clothes. And when other companies heard that big labels such as Katies, Millers and Rivers and Seafolly were involved it encouraged them to come on board.
We had the structure, the clothes, but we needed to find a way to actually get them to the people… my SUV was not going to cut it. Enter TOLL Group. TOLL is the purest example of Corporate Social Responsibility. They show how a business can incorporate core activities into a social cause – facilitate Thread Together’s courier requirements as part of your daily business.
One simple action, one simple way to make a difference.
I am determined to leverage my position as Chair of Thread Together to advocate on behalf of those in our community who are doing it tough. I will continue to encourage the fashion world to make Thread Together part of its production process – where the automatic solution to end-of-line clothing is a phone call to Thread Together – so that in our partnerships we can do everything possible to help people in our community why are doing it tough.