When Sustainable Style meets Feminism and Empowerment: The Story of the Fabric Social

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When Katie- one of the three co-founders of fashion social enterprise The Fabric Social– asked me to feature this brand I was thrilled. Not just because their garments are ethically produced, using sustainable fibres and are beautiful (which they, of course, are). But because The Fabric Social are so much more than the garments they produce. They are exactly that kind of extraordinary enterprise that I delight in uncovering and sharing with the world. An organisation that not only provides fair wages for those that make their garments, but one which puts feminism, empowerment, social change and poverty alleviation in places of recurrent conflict, at the very heart of their business.

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The Fabric Social born of frustration with the aid sector, which despite billions of dollars of donor funding each year, is failing to improve the lives of the world’s poorest. The three founders met in India, where they were working on gender empowerment and poverty alleviation projects, and there they witnessed futility of so much that goes on in this sector. These three young Australian women recognised that aid is failing to make a dent in poverty. Not through lack of funds, but through an inability to harness the immense talents that exist in the communities that they are trying to serve.

It was a project that donated electric sewing machines to women in remote conflict affected Assam province in India that would be the catalyst for The Fabric Social. And not in the way you might expect. Women in this region have a rich tradition of growing and weaving silk and cotton on hand looms, uninfluenced by mechanisation or industrial agricultural or textile manufacturing. The women are talented weavers, and have no history of sewing and embroidery. Which makes a sewing project more than a little ill-conceived, particularly when you take into account the limited, sporadic and expensive electricity supply. After watching the sewing machines collect dust in the villages, the young Australian aid workers began to think they could do better.

Out of this experience, the idea for The Fabric Social began to take root, and the three Australians- Fi, Sharna & Katie- returned to Australia and set to work. A successful crowdfunding campaign got them off the ground, and The Fabric Social now produces a range of  garments made from the soft hand-loomed fabric that the women of Assam weave. The weavers decide how much fabric they want to weave and what the fair price is, then tailors in a Fairtrade-certified factory in Kolkata cut, dye and sew the fabric into zero waste garments designs.

The Fabric Social Process

The whole process takes several weeks, and each garment is made to order to avoid waste. This is sustainable slow fashion at it’s best. If you are used to fast fashion, waiting 6 weeks or so for your order might feel strange. But let me tell you, the garments are worth the wait.

The designs by Australian zero-waste designer and sustainable fashion advocate, Ally Deam, are beautiful pieces that “seamlessly blends wardrobe staple and statement piece”. I was gifted the Tavi top in mustard, and it is equally at home with denim,

Tavi with denim

dressed up for a date,

Tavi with full skirt

or with a suit for the office.

Tavi with suit

So if you want your clothing be versatile, beautiful, sustainable, ethical and meaningful, then The Fabric Social are worth your investment. What I love about this enterprise is they are contributing to tangible social change and creating opportunities for women overcome poverty by using their traditional skills and talents, and allowing them to continue their valuable cultural traditions. In no way is this pity shopping. By shopping with them you are supporting an independent feminist business that genuinely empowers women in a region affected by recurrent conflict, and the garment you buy will become a fast favourite. Readers of this blog can get a 15% discount using the code: TORTOISE

 


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