Last week was Fashion Revolution week - a week in which people around the world were asked to share who made their clothing and accessories, in hopes to shed light on unfair labor practices in the fashion industry.
I can proudly introduce the artisans behind rePURPOSE®. I have nothing to hide, unlike the majority of fashion-related businesses. We use ethical materials and pay fair wages for the production of our products (which is why our headbands cost more than the ones you find at the store).
The artisans who work for us are refugees - persons who have been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Here is the short story on how these women became part of the rePURPOSE® team:
Originally, our products were made by local friends and volunteers, but my dream was to turn rePURPOSE® into a fair trade company - where we would provide jobs and fair wages to women in developing countries. Trying to make this happen proved to be extremely overwhelming. I had no clue where to start. It wasn't until my heart broke during the Syrian Refugee Crisis that I took the time to research the refugees in America. Only then did I discover that there were thousands of refugees living an hour away from me, in Syracuse, NY.
Sadly, many refugees who come to this area end up leaving because they can't find work. They get uprooted from their homes and their lives, come to America for hope, only to find out they can't support their families here. Learning this helped me find a new purpose for rePURPOSE® (see what I did there): hiring refugees to make our products.
Fast forward to today and we now employ four amazing women from Cuba, Burma and Kazakhstan. We partnered with Interfaith Works, one of two organizations in Syracuse who assists in resettling refugees. I drive there once a week and lug in a suitcase full of fabric, sewing machines and anything else I can carry. Sometimes it's just me, other times my volunteers join me. We spend a couple of hours together while we train the women and work alongside of them. They are able to bring the materials home for the week to continue working.
These women are extremely talented, and work harder than most people I know. They have been a huge asset to rePURPOSE® and I can't wait until the business continues to grow and we are able to employ more women.
Here are some photos to give you a glimpse into the program!