Thraedable is an ethical fashion brand that supports many different social causes around the world. Their t-shirt and accessory line supports causes that promotes in a manner that favors sustainable changes. They aim to raise awareness about social issues that suffers from invisibility or misrepresentation. I had the pleasure to interview Cristina Orsini, co-founder of Threadable. Keep reading to discover this amazing conscious brand, the leaders who are behind it and how they plan to bring positive changes into the world.
Both Aghiles Ourad and yourself founded Thraedable, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and upbringings?
Aghiles was born in Algeria and moved to Birmingham in the U.K. with his family at the age of 3, during which time Algeria was experiencing a bloody civil war. I was born in Milan province in Italy, where I grew up, but after high school I took the challenge to go study in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and since then I have become a bit of a nomad. The two of us met in Paris, France studying for our Masters degrees at Sciences Po Paris, and since then we have lived in Algiers, Milan and London, and have traveled to many more places. Aghiles and I were born and grew up in different countries but have a very similar upbringing. Both our family taught us the importance of being humble, not to take what we have for granted, to be independent and curious, and to be always open to other people.
What is Thraedable and where it's located?
Thraedable is a social enterprise that aims to raise awareness about social issues that suffer from invisibility or misrepresentation and to raise funds for grassroots organizations that offer sustainable solutions to these issues. We are an ethical fashion brand, currently producing t-shirts and bags inspired by drawings made by people who face little-told social issues; as well as an online magazine to inform and raise awareness. Our business model is based on our 50 Threads scheme: 50% of our profits are shared with our partner NGOs.
We are registered in Ireland (Brexit effect), print our clothes in a small screen printing studio in Milan, and live between London and Milan (dreaming to move somewhere on the Mediterranean one day). The social issues we tackle with our projects have no geographical limitation. As of now, we have conducted five projects in Tunisia, Greece (Lesbos), and Italy (Sicily), but in the future we want to expand further. We don’t think location should be a limit to what it worth bringing awareness to.
When you state that the mission of Thraedable is to give a voice to the marginalized, what do you mean by that?
Marginalization can happen anywhere in the world, where people are excluded from the enjoyment of economic opportunities as well as of their own rights. This is exacerbated by the fact that the media focuses on a limited number of social issues, while others go untold, leaving the groups who suffer from them without a voice. We want to bring visibility to these issues, enabling the people who experience them to tell their own stories. At Thraedable, we encourage people to tell their stories through art, an alternative channel of communication that speaks all languages; and we then use clothes, a medium that everybody can see, as a canvas to amplify these stories and pass them on to others.
Your ethical fashion line supports social projects which promote their causes in a manner that favors sustained change. Can you explain to us how it works?
Each line is born from a partnership with a grassroots organization working towards a sustainable solution to social issues that we feel needs more attention. We organize art workshops with the beneficiaries of our partner NGOs, to give them an opportunity to express themselves through art, and we then take inspiration from their drawings to create meaningful designs for our environmentally friendly clothes. This way, each item carries the voice of those who can only shout in the dark. And because the profits from each NGO’s line are shared equally with them, money made from the messages conveyed through Thraedable’s clothes contributes directly to the sustained change the NGOs are fighting for.
Photo Credit: www.thraedable.com
I think it's great that every pieces of your collection tells the story of each organization and their community which you're partnering with and supporting. How important it is for you to bring awareness to these causes? How has it affected you personally?
Bringing awareness to our partners NGOs’ causes is central to Thraedable’s mission. This has made me discover issues, or aspects of them, that I did not know about. This also means that I have become personally attached to these issues. Part of the job (probably my favorite part!) is traveling to the communities that we support, and these encounters are incredibly enriching experiences. It is deeply motivating to witness the resilience of the people we have worked with as well as their commitment and energy in the face of adversity.
Can you tell us more about these organizations and give us an example of how Thraedable is helping? Where can we read more about these projects and causes?
Two of our partner NGOs are in Tunisia: one supports children who suffer from a genetic condition that makes them hypersensitive to UV rays, and thus socially isolated; and the second promotes active citizenship among Tunisian youth in the context of an emerging economy. The other three projects (one on the Aegean island of Lesbos in Greece and two on the island of Sicily in Italy) dealt with issues of migration and asylum in Europe, a topic which is receives media attention but often through agenda-driven frames. For now we have organized our workshops which were a good moment to socialize for those who took part, and local exhibition aimed at raising awareness at the local level (and also an occasion to party!), but the biggest impact will come when we will start supporting our partners through our 50 threads scheme. Indeed, our website has a section dedicated to our projects, where you can read about the issues, the organizations and the objectives that Thraedable wants to contribute to.
You have a crowdfunding campaign coming soon, tell us what are your objectives, when it will start and how we all can participate and help?
Yes! Thraedable is launching a crowdfunding campaign on June 5th in order to raise £10,000 to start production of our t-shirts and bags. This means that between June 5th and July 5th, anyone can pre-order our products through our crowdfunding campaign page with exclusive discounts! We set a big challenge for ourselves as this campaign is “all or nothing”, meaning that if we don’t reach our goal we won’t receive any pledges (and our supporters will receive the pledged amount back) – but with everybody’s support we can make it! Our campaign page is on www.theupeffect.com, a crowdfunding platform focused on businesses with a social impact and our specific campaign page is http://bit.ly/thraedable2.
Photo Credit: www.thraedable.com
All Thraedable garments are ethically made, sustainable and eco-friendly. What are some of the fabrics used for each clothing?
We source our products from manufacturing companies that focus on ethical manufacturing, and, among their collections, we only select the most eco-friendly garments. All our bags and most of our t-shirts are made of 100% certified organic cotton. The t-shirts that are not in organic cotton are made of natural fiber such as Tencel and Model, for a more flowy look. Being eco-friendly also means that all our designs are printed by hand with water-based inks that, unlike oil-based inks, are free of harsh solvents.
In your opinion, what are the key factors to look for in ethical fashion?
I believe that ethical manufacturing and environmental sustainability should both be requirements for a product that deserves the name of ethical fashion. But I especially like the brands that go further than having a clean production chain, and actively aim to have a positive impact on society, either by supporting social causes or by making their fashion accessible to more people who may only have a modest budget. By using our garments to give voice to the voiceless and to raise funds for the organizations that support them this is what we are trying to do!
What inspired you to embark in this journey?
Aghiles and I always had long conversations about growing inequalities and marginalization while getting mad at the news because certain social issues are covered only in a stereotyped manner, while others are not covered at all. At the time, I was working in the non-profit sector with UNICEF Algeria and Aghiles was working in marketing in the private sector, so we decided to bring together our experiences and skills to give our own contribution to society. A social enterprise seemed the perfect format for it, and we choose to set up a clothing brand because clothes are something that everybody can see, and thus a perfect medium to raise awareness and send a message.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a difficult one! Aghiles and I are business partners but also partners in life, so there is always a risk that the working day and our free time merge into something undefined. We solve this by setting clear deadlines for ourselves and working in co-working spaces or community areas. One of us always seems to know when it is time to close the laptop and go out and see some friends! It is funny because people think that because you work for yourself you are not constrained by time, or can take time out whenever you want. But it is precisely because we are setting up our own company, that we can end up working too much, because there is nobody else who would do it for us!
Do you think there's any obstacles to women’s leadership?
We still need to go a long way to bring about true equality between men and women, especially when it is about leadership. Personally, I have not experienced any obstacles (so far) and Thraedable could be quite exemplary in this sense, as it is co-founded and co-directed by a woman and a man in a truly equal partnership. There are far too few women on the boards of companies for example, and I believe that quotas for positions for women are an important step in normalizing the presence of women the higher strata of any organizational groups. In the specific field of ethical fashion and sustainability I actually feel that there is a need for a bigger male presence. “Ethical” and “sustainable” are becoming dangerously equated with “feminine”, yet men buy clothes too! If we want to see true change for the better in ethical fashion it needs to be across all sexes.
What can we expect to see from Thraedable in the coming years?
First of all, I hope that you will see a successful crowdfunding campaign! This would allow us to start supporting our partner NGOs financially and prove the viability of our concept, but also to bring out more designs. We want to expand the range of our partners and embark in new projects and partnerships, both at home (wherever that may be) and far away so that we can continue to raise more awareness and more funds for stories that deserve to be told. I would also expect a broader media platform, with more in-depth articles and full length documentaries to expose the issues that we tackle in a multidisciplinary manner.
Where can customers purchase your products?
Between June 5th and July 5th anybody who likes the project can pre-order Thraedable’s products with exclusive discount through our crowdfunding page here http://bit.ly/thraedable2. After that, we will finalize our online boutique and Thraedable’s products will become available to purchase on our website www.thraedable.com. We also try to be present at cultural events, and this will be announced as they come, a reason to signing up to our mailing list!
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