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New threads for new beginnings

It is choice that is empowering. Image: Liza Summer - Pexels

ANTHONY Chesler, CEO at Thread Together, said the charity exists to solve two problems with one solution.

First is saving landfill and second giving clothing to people.

Australian fashion retailers donate excess or end of season new clothing to Thread Together for distribution via charity partners to people in need.

“We think people at their darkest times are deserving of the best, which is why we only work with new and not second-hand clothing,” Mr Chesler said.

“It is one thing to give them new items that make them feel good about themselves; the other is choice that is empowering.

“Clothing is personal; we don’t want to dress someone in clothing just because it’s new; it has to be items they choose.

“Everything we do is around giving people a choice but doing it in a dignified manner.”

They provide for the homeless, youth at risk, Indigenous communities, survivors of domestic violence, refugees or long term unemployed.

Founder Andie Halas said their model is straightforward.

“We collect end-of-line brand new stock from clothing providers,” she said

“With the support of volunteers, the clothes are sorted and then re-distributed to people in need through charities across Australia.

“I think of it as redistributive justice.”

Mr Chesler described the three distribution trails.

“Firstly, at our online orders centre, orders from agencies are picked and packed by volunteers then sent to the agency or direct to the client.”

Their fleet of Mobile Wardrobes, refurbished vans with a walk-in custom-fitted wardrobe and change room, are used almost every day as a second way of providing a unique shopping experience.

The organisation’s industry partners invite the vans to a community location where individual clients come to try on and choose the clothing they want.

Clothing Hubs that look like a typical fashion retailer is the last option where shopping is by appointment

“They don’t look like an op-shop; that is a key distinction,” Mr Chesler said.

Fashion partner Boody, suppliers of basics across underwear, sleepwear, loungewear and activewear, put sustainable thinking at the centre of everything they do.

CEO Shaun Greenblo said Boody partnered with Thread Together because we love what they are doing.

“We were looking at the end of life and circularity solutions for our product because we put so much effort into the manufacturing process to make sure that our garments are as sustainable as possible,” Mr Greenblo said.

“Because we are a basics brand, we don’t have end of season garments as all our clothing is based on non-seasonal items that last year in year out.

“We don’t give [Thread Together] clothing we can’t sell; we just give them current stock.”

Mr Greenblo said that it is unlikely that anyone would donate used undies and bras, so Boody got involved to fill the gap.

Thread Together’s clients come from such difficult circumstances where they haven’t had the dignity or the opportunity to choose their clothing.

“For us to be able to offer different cuts and styles of underwear and different shapes of bras that fit their cup size is a beautiful opportunity,” he said.

Carol Kingshott, an organiser at charity partner Hobart City Church of Christ, said “the wastage of clothing going into landfill is immoral.”

“This is a unique service providing clothing with dignity to help people.”

Ms Kingshott contacted the Royal Hobart Hospital regarding clothing for the stroke unit patients without family to support them.

“They can’t engage in therapy in a hospital gown, so we set them up with clothing and shoes of their choice,” she said.

One of Ms Kingshott’s recent clients was a woman who hadn’t been able to wear boots and jeans for a very long time due to a domestic violence situation.

“She got a beautiful pair of new boots and a pair of jeans plus other clothing,” Ms Kingshot said.

“I’m pretty lucky I get lots of hugs…I feel really privileged to be involved in this because it is pretty much the ideal feel-good job.”

“Hi my name is Kirsty* I came in today and you helped me with clothes, underwear and shoes i just want to say thank you so very much i have not had new cloths or a bra in over 10 years due to a dv relationship i felt so special and so cared about today you made me feel comfortable and cared about not once did i feel ashamed that i was getting help you have helped me boast my self esteem i was crying with happy tears and i can not thank you enough for what you have done for me to me it wasn’t just cloths it was a new start for me so thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

When Natalie Karp wanted a volunteer opportunity to pay it forward after retiring, she found it at Thread Together.

“What a wonderful way to contribute to the community and help the environment [at the same time],” Ms Karp said.

Her parents and her in-laws came to Australia as refugees after WWII with nothing.

“They had nothing like this,” she said.

“What a wonderful way for new refugees to get a start for a new life with access to Thread Together.”

She volunteers two full days a week, sometimes in the fulfilment centre or the mobile wardrobe.

“We have a lot of homeless people who haven’t had a shower for a while, and just to get something that is clean and new from the van is overwhelming for them sometimes,” Ms Karp said.

“Everyone is so appreciative; they are so uplifted and they walk away a different person.

“When they see something they like and it fits, it’s theirs straight away.

 “Their clothing is placed in the same type of bags used by fashion retailers.”

*Name changed to protect privacy

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Carol Saffer

Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges. Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.

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