While some shoppers may base their consumer choices on conscience, for the vast majority of fashion lovers ethics is a consideration that often comes after design and fit. Many use fashion to express themselves artistically and creatively, and use style to explore their sense of identity.
Even though ethical fashion is still a niche, the scene is already overcrowded with minimalist, monochromatic and earthy and neutral offerings. Then there are the collections filled with soft pastel hues and various shades of millennial pink clearly targeting the young female demographic. It’s little wonder then that the ethical fashion industry has built itself a rather “vanilla-flavoured” reputation.
But there’s one Sydney-based ethical fashion brand breaking free from the mold and shaking things up; The Social Outfit, a brand celebrating the art of dressing up through its uninhibited use of bold colour and vibrant prints and bringing fun and playfulness into the mix.
In a sea of ethical fashion blandness, The Social Outfit’s colourful and contemporary designs are breath of fresh air; its distinctive collections are a celebration of cultural expression, personal identity and creativity. The label combines the best of slow and sustainable fashion; its pieces are made from deadstock and donated fabrics and produced in small batches at their Newtown retail store and workshop. It’s here that customers get the chance to see designs being brought to life, with garments being sewn and made on site by a small group of artisans. Customers also have the opportunity to meet and connect with their maker and get an appreciation for what makes The Social Outfit’s garments unique and limited-edition.
However, the brand’s vibrant collections are not the only reason this fashion label stands out; it’s with refugees and migrants is equally worthy of recognition and applause. In addition to its Newtown-based retail store and online shop, The Social Outfit is also a social enterprise.
A social enterprise is what the name suggests; it’s an enterprise that conducts business to earn a profit but that is then used to tackle social problems or protect the environment. In the case of The Social Outfit, it sells apparel and fashion accessories and profits are then used to fund training and employment pathway programs that help refugees and new migrants obtain their first jobs and allow them a greater chance of integrating into Australian life.
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Introducing some of our #KingBotanic artists: 10 young women from the refugee and new migrant community in Liverpool, the creators of the collaborative Liverpool print! ??? The Social Outfit’s Digital Print Project is an annual program designed to engage young people from refugee and new migrant communities in different areas of Western Sydney. This year, we had the joy of working with Wurood, Reem, Hind & Balsam (image 1), Princess, Abeer & Kelly (image 2) and Brona, Jehan and Maryana (not pictured here). ???? For 6 weeks, these young women came together for a series of artistic workshops, designed to increase creative confidence while forming new social connections. Each workshop focused on a new material or technique, exploring and practicing new skills and ways of communicating visually. The end result is the Liverpool print, incorporating artwork from all ten participants in a beautiful collage of illustrative styles! ???? This project was run in partnership with @westernsydneymrc, and facilitated by @jessicaleeparker for The Social Outfit. Find the Liverpool print on garments, accessories and stationery available for preorder online, with select pieces in store now! ??? – – – ?: Photos by @lesterjonesphotography, and also featuring @nmmwl wearing the Liverpool print ?
So the gorgeous garments you see at The Social Outfit’s retail space in Newtown and its online shop? They have all been creatively designed and lovingly handmade by talented migrants and refugees settling into Australia.
For many recent migrants, especially refugees, inclusion into the Australian community is challenging. There are multiple barriers that prevent them from accessing social, economic and employment opportunities, including language barriers, cultural barriers, and job hiring practices that often don’t recognise their skills, experiences or previous qualifications.
By providing training, mentoring, networking opportunities and an inclusive, creative environment that helps to build confidence and cultural connectedness, The Social Outfit improves the chances of these marginalised job seekers gaining entry into the Australian job market, which leads to broader social and community benefits. There have been over 40 cultures represented at The Social Outfit, making this organisation an incredibly diverse place in which to work.
I absolutely adore their collections and love that the business uses fashion as a tool for economic empowerment, which is why I was super excited to have gotten the chance to chat with its incredibly inspiring founder and CEO Jackie Ruddock for an upcoming episode of the Eco Warrior Princess podcast.
With an extensive background as a project manager and researcher in the fields of education, health, communications, multiculturalism and sexuality and gender, and previously holding senior management positions at the The School for Social Entrepreneurs, FAR Social Enterprise, and Streetwize Communications, Jackie is best positioned to lead The Social Outfit and was instrumental in securing funding and support from ING Dreamstarter to further grow the social enterprise.
Established four years ago, The Social Outfit has helped nearly two dozen refugees and new migrants secure their first jobs in Australia. During the almost hour-long conversation, Jackie shares some important business advice and lessons for social entrepreneurs and explains why their ongoing partnership with ING Dreamstarter has been crucial to their success in helping the marginalised and providing them with hope for a better and brighter future.
Love what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Visit the ING Dreamstarter website to learn how their crowdfunding campaigns help social enterprises create positive impact.
We also encourage you to pop into The Social Outfit’s new store at 188 King Street in Newtown where you can browse and try on their latest collections.
Title image credit: The Social Outfit ‘Liverpool’ camisole and ‘Poppy’ wrap pants.