The Social Outfit is fostering fashion from Sydney’s refugee communities

Words by Jasmine Wallis

A community effort.

Starting out in Newtown in 2014, The Social Outfit began with a vision to celebrate the creative talent of Sydney’s refugee communities.

Five years on, and the brand has launched a new line to celebrate its achievements at the forefront of community action in the fashion industry.

Dubbed Kinetic Bloom, the collection is made from deadstock materials (also known as fabric offcuts) sourced from Seafolly, Romance Was Born and Alice McCall leftovers. This is becoming a common sustainability practice among labels attempting to create a more circular economy.

“It’s really a win-win,” says CEO, Camilla Schippa, of the process. “We get beautiful fabrics at no cost to use in our collections, and the label feels good that its excess fabrics and trims are not ending up in landfill.”

To date, The Social Outfit has saved over five tonnes of fabric going to waste. It has also spearheaded the #whomademyclothes movement, a hashtag celebrating the faces behind the people who physically create the clothes in the market.

All these factors contribute to the collective’s mission to make the production line more transparent.

As well as keeping its carbon footprint as low as possible, The Social Outfit also provides training and employment for refugees and people in migrant communities. For its Spring/Summer collection, the brand worked with young people from refugee communities and multi-disciplinary artists to celebrate the diversity of Australia.

Kinetic Bloom involved students from Fairfield High School’s Intensive English Centre in creative art workshops. Running over 8 weeks, the workshops involve students who have recently settled in Australia.

Camilla says these programs help, “develop increased community connections; reduce social isolation; increase their sense of belonging and develop a positive attitude to learning and training.” In the end, the organisation selects 12 students’ artwork for the final collection.

The Social Outfit also works with Australian artists Gunjan Aylawadi (known for her geometric shapes) and Louise Zhang (known for her more dreamy work). Both Gunjan and Louise were keen to collaborate with The Social Outfit because, as Camilla says, “they could empathise with the stories of our sewing community, the difficulties of growing up as a migrant and integrating into Australian society.”

With all of their environmental and community contribution, at the end of the day, The Social Outfit just want to celebrate diversity.

“Our work was born out of a desire to celebrate our cultural diversity and creativity; to create a place where people can come together to make clothes, friends, and participate in creating a culture where we all belong,” says Camilla.

The work is in the results, as 23 participating refugees gained their first job in Australia via the program, 19 of whom have transitioned into further employment.

The Social Outfit has a list of strong humanitarian, environmental, and ethical values that’s as long as the materials it makes its clothes from.

“When you wear The Social Outfit, you wear clothes that tell positive stories. You’re taking a stand against fast fashion’s forced labour and slavery while taking a stand for refugee women’s rights, and fair and dignified employment.”

Clothes as a storytelling tool as well as a social consciousness have our vote of confidence.

The Social Outfit will be celebrating its fifth birthday in November, you can buy tickets to the fundraiser here.

You can find the latest collection here.


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