This week we chat to Anthony Chesler, CEO of the Australian social enterprise Thread Together, which works tirelessly to redistribute fashion excess to vulnerable community members. Below, Anthony tells us about the charity, the ways clothing can make an impact and how everyone can make a difference to end textile waste.
Tell us about Thread Together:
Anthony: We are Australia’s most ethical response to fashion excess. We collect brand new fashion that would have otherwise gone to landfill and redistribute it to people in need. Thread Together solves two problems with one solution.
What was the motivation for launching Thread Together?
Anthony: Andie Halas, the Founder of Thread Together, used to run (swimwear brand) Seafolly. She found a manufacturing fault within the towels that they were producing and could no longer sell them, but she didn’t want to throw them away. She went to give them to people in need and saw them rummaging through boxes of second-hand goods. There is so much excess fashion that goes to landfill or sits in warehouses that is impacting the environment, and she thought surely something can be done. That ignited the passion for her to connect with her fellow fashion colleagues and brands to start to collect brand new excess fashion and distribute it to those who need it most. Thread Together has been around for 9 years now, and that’s what’s started it all.
Thread Together supports both people and the planet.What kind of impact has the charity made so far?
Anthony: We have clothed over 500,000 people in need so far. Usually, we provide each individual person in need with a wardrobe which consists of 15 to 20 items, including clothing and shoes. We only collect brand new clothes, as we believe we should be able to give people the best in their time of need. From an environmental perspective, we have saved tonnes of clothes from going into landfill by redistributing it around Australia.
How can clothing play a part in improving the lives of people living in poverty?
Anthony: We speak a lot about ‘Enclothed Cognition’ and the power that brand new clothing can have. Putting on a new suit to go to a job interview or a beautiful dress that makes you feel good gives people the self-confidence and power to reclaim their identity, be able to take that one positive step forward and feel empowered through clothing.
What are some of your favourite brands and charities that you work with?
Anthony: We couldn’t say our favourite because they’re all amazing! We’re so appreciative of all the brands that support us. We have over 500 fashion brands that provide clothing to us and new brands comes through every day to support the good work that we’re doing and to join our community and ensuring we continue to be the most ethical response to their own fashion excess. We work with Tommy Hilfiger, PE Nation, The Iconic, Bec and Bridge and beautiful boutiques such as St Agni and The Upside – hundreds and hundreds of labels, from big names to everyday quality brands.. Sometimes there are manufacturing defaults, such as the colour did not come out the way they intended and therefore is not appropriate for sale but is still a quality item. Prior to Thread Together these items would of ended up in landfill.
How can people make a difference to prevent textile waste?
Anthony: The average person throws out 23kgs of fashion a year, a huge amount that is going to landfill to reduce the impact on the environment we talk about reducing, reusing and repurposing. Reduce the amount that you buy by choosing quality over quantity and avoiding fast fashion pieces. Every garment has an impact from manufacturing, production to the number of times you wash it. I don’t think people understand the complete lifecycle of a garment and the impact on the environment. Reuse it – if it has a slight hole, try to repair it – and repurpose. Once you no longer like it, pass it on to a friend or a charity as opposed to throwing it out..
Is there anything else we should know about Thread Together?
Anthony: It’s important to know the way that we are able to distribute clothing. We have a warehouse based in Banksmeadow, Sydney, where we service the whole of Australia out of. We distribute the clothing in three ways. The first is we have mobile wardrobes, which are vans fitted out inside as a wardrobe. The mobile wardrobes allow us to go into communities and react to crises like the bushfires, floods and the pandemic, where vulnerable people are welcomed to look through the brand new clothing and choose what is best for them – they’re not just given the clothes but afforded the opportunity of choice.
The second way is that we have shops around Australia, where vulnerable people are given a gift card (a referral) by one of our partners. They’re able to have an authentic shopping experience, be styled and go away feeling good. All of this is free, so nobody has to pay a cent. Instead we have to fundraise to ensure we can continue to do what we are doing
The third way is online, where we have an online portal that the charities are able to access and order for their clients. For a small team, it is an amazing operation and we’re able to get out so many clothes. We’re clothing around 2,000 people each week and we’re looking to grow that.