New lives to old textiles
Prague| Czech Republic
Have you ever heard about the Circular Economy and how it works? There is no better example of it than FOREWEAR, a social business from the Czech Republic, which gives new lives to old clothes and unwanted textiles. Many new lives.
STEP 1 – Collecting clothes
Firstly, I find companies which want to organize a clothes collection event with us – says Marketa, the founder of FOREWEAR. Then, for a few days, employees are bringing clothes and fabrics they don’t need anymore. During the last 13 years (8 years running this textile project and 5 years of previous voluntary work) we collected more than 30.000 kg of textiles.
STEP 2 – Donating to charity
When we collect enough, we bring it to an organization which works with people with disabilities and runs a charity shop where they employ some of them. They sort out what they need from the clothes we collected – they keep only good quality items which can be sold and help with sustaining their initiative. Some of the clothes they do not take are donated to other charity organizations, for example those working with migrants or homeless.
Some years ago, before the company was formed, we used to collaborate also with a nursing home for elderly people. We invited everybody for clothes swapping and what was left after the event was donated to local charities. As an entrance fee to the event, we proposed a voluntary donation in the form of money or things which old people may need. They loved it, they were not really used to receiving things for free or participating in such socializing events. Already at that time we were left with a lot of lower quality clothes or textiles and we had no idea what to do with them. In FOREWEAR we finally managed to solve that in a more sustainable way.
STEP 3 - Recycling
We pass a small part of clothes which are not good enough to be donated to a factory which recycles them, by breaking textiles into fibres, threads. They also work with leftover textiles and surpluses from industrial textile productions. Then, they put it back together, creating new materials. Among all their unwoven textiles, we chose a specific polyester material which we use depending on the design of the final products. On some we can print, for example motives with colors of a company logo which can help a lot in the selling stage. This branding of the recycled products by means of colorful print is what companies appreciate a lot.
STEP 4 – Preparing products
We design some products for our own use, others are ordered directly by companies. We prepare a recycled textile with a specific design printed on it and we bring them to a sheltered workshop, an organization which provides jobs to people with mental disorders. We are able to ensure jobs for 4-5 seamstresses there which is one of our bigger successes. The products they make for us include diaries with pockets, book covers, pockets for mobile phones and tablets, organizers, bags for wine bottles document folders and shopping bags.
STEP 5 – Selling products (closing the circle)
We focus on cooperation mainly with companies, we need bigger orders of at least a few hundred items to make it profitable. Usually we cooperate with the companies where we collected clothes and then they receive these branded products. The most challenging is that we cannot plan ahead, companies order ad hoc and usually only once. One year they order Christmas gifts from us, next year they want something new. Therefore, very often we have to find new customers and come up with new types of products to keep up. Despite the challenges, we’ve managed so far and it is feasible to continue with this activity. I can sustain myself, provide work for people from disadvantaged backgrounds and help the environment. It just makes sense to me.
More about FOREWEAR: forewear.cz/en