There are many things we take for granted in our everyday lives. The meals we eat, the water we drink, the clean air we breathe.
Something else we take for granted is the clothing we wear. Sure, we agonise over what top to pair with what jeans and so on. But very rarely do we spare a thought for those who can’t afford to buy new clothes at all.
This is where Thread Together comes in. With a simple mission to deliver new, good quality clothing and shoes to people in our community who are ‘doing it tough’, Thread Together is an organisation we are proud to say we align and work with.
To explain a bit more about Thread Together’s past, present and future, we caught up with the charity’s founder, Andie Halas. But before that, we thought we’d give you a brief overview of who exactly Thread Together are.
Who are Thread Together?
Founded in 2012 by Andie Halas, a former shareholder of the swimwear brand Seafolly, Thread Together provides clothing donations to those who are truly in need. Using her vast experience within the fashion industry, Andie saw the potential for unsold clothing to make a huge difference in people’s lives.
Through collaborating with some of Australia’s largest clothing brands and social service agencies, Thread Together helps companies with too much give back to people that have too little.
When Thread Together first started, their focus was to provide grassroots support to charity initiatives by providing clothing for activities such as community market days. Fast forward to today and the organisation continues to support charities through their wardrobe initiatives and Clothing Hubs.
An interview with Andie Halas, Thread Together founder
How did Thread Together originally come to be?
Seafolly experienced a small production issue with some blue and white towels. They were perfectly good, but the dye ran slightly, making them unsaleable. So, we looked at the options – we could dump them and claim the loss or find something better to do with them.
I decided on the latter and contacted the Asylum Seeker Centre which was around the corner from our offices. The towels were immediately and gratefully accepted. And when I dropped the towels in I realised that this small organisation was providing over 60 people with all their basic needs – food, shelter, clothing and companionship.
I noticed that a group of people were rummaging through a pile of old clothes that sat in broken cardboard boxes. My instinct was to go over and assist in some way. I introduced myself to a lady who explained that she needed to find some clothes for her daughter. The daughter was the same age as my youngest child but instead of being at school she was sitting alone and so still.
The mother seemed afraid and desperate to find some clothes. We spent 30 minutes looking, and although the clothes had been donated by well-meaning citizens, they smelled bad and there really wasn’t anything suitable. The whole process was so undignified – I was not a case worker nor a doctor, but I did have access to clothing.
That day at the Asylum Seeker Centre was a pretty extraordinary day in my life. I felt excited and energised about the possibilities. It was a simple concept – pick up unsold stock, sort through and organise it, and then donate clothing to people in need in a dignified manner.
Something about the idea felt so right, and Thread Together was created.
What has been your biggest highlight since launching the organisation?
Helping a quarter of a million people so far has meant that we have diverted some 750,000 items of clothes from potential landfill and are becoming the umbrella organisation for the fashion industry’s response to waste and social responsibility.
We can imagine the journey has had some pretty confronting moments for you. How has Thread Together changed you as a person?
I was driven for a purpose and found myself asking and doing things way outside my comfort zone. This simple idea that began small has taught me some big lessons.
Australia is the lucky country, but not for all.
You don’t have to look very hard to find large and disturbing pockets of vulnerable Australians. Recently I went out on night patrol with St Vincent De Paul in Canberra. It was cold – really cold – and we were flat-out all night feeding, clothing and conversing with so many people, and all this was taking place right next door to Parliament House.
But one of the nice surprises that happened that evening was that a chap who I thought was homeless came up and gave me $200 and said: “Vinnie’s was there for me when I had nothing and now I’ve got a job so please, help someone else.” We see so much news of people being horrible to each other but my work in this field has shown me that most people are good and kind.
Given your background in the fashion industry and the waste you would have undoubtedly seen throughout your career, does it surprise you that someone hadn't come up with the idea of Thread Together sooner?
In the early 2000s, the whole issue of sustainability was not nearly as prominent as it is today. There was some talk about plastic not being good for the environment, but no one spoke about the negative impact that the growing “fast fashion” era might have on our earth. To the contrary, fast fashion was seen as a great thing – it was democratic, now we could all afford to dress like famous celebrities.
It was only when Anthony (Andie's husband) and I travelled to factories in rural China that I began to comprehend the madness of fast fashion. The factories were huge, as were the machines, number of workers, and the roles of synthetic fabric strewn on the floor. It was overwhelming, and I knew that we were just gobbling up resources like there’s no tomorrow.
Now perhaps the response of a more noble person may have been to shut up shop and turn to organic food production, but that just wasn’t a realistic option for us. And anyway, how was I, someone so small and insignificant, really going to have any impact on this big issue?
Do you see the attitude towards waste in the fashion industry changing?
Yes, absolutely. We have over 40 fashion brands donating their end-of-line clothes to us. Fashion really wants to be part of the solution that Thread Together offers.
How can people get involved with Thread Together?
We do not charge the people that we help or the brands that donate their clothes to us. But we do need to pay the rent and meet our basic operational costs annually. It costs us $5 to clothe a person. You can donate on our website or commit to clothing a family of four every month by setting up a monthly payment.
Help us spread our message – the more people know about Thread Together, the more we can help. If you work in fashion or know someone who does, tell them how easy it is to donate to Thread Together. If you work for a corporate, let them know how they can support our work by booking a team building program. If you work in charity – let them know that with Thread Together they can order the type of clothes their clients need and at a time that suits them.
What advice would you give someone wanting to launch their own charity?
The best time to ask for something is when you are amid a commercial negotiation.
What are Thread Together's plans for the future?
We want to become the umbrella solution for the fashion world. Ensuring nothing manufactured goes straight to landfill and those clothes are instead going to people in our community doing it tough.
We would like to open a Clothing Hub in every major city nationally and have a mobile van attached to each hub.