Australia was a treasure trove that offered so many gems. It proved to be precious for my soul with a wealth of experiences that filled my heart with joy and gratitude. In this post, I will take you along on a walk that my dear friend took me on in a neighborhood in Sydney, Australia.
She asked me to meet her in Newtown, as it is her and her family’s favorite place to hang out in Sydney. And, after spending time with her there, I totally see why. We first met at the Turkish cafe for breakfast and let me tell you, Turkish breakfasts are among the best breakfasts out there. We ate delicious Semite bread with eggs and sujok, honey with cream, oh my oh my, and of course Turkish tea.
Following that wholesome breakfast and a great catch up, we went on the most heartwarming walk along King Street. It was something to see three non-profit shops, one after the other, on one of Sydney's trendy streets. One shop, that my friend knew I would love and pointed out to me, was a shop called The Social Outfit. It’s an independently accredited, ethical trading project that provides employment and training in the fashion industry to people from refugee and new migrant communities. Among many skills, they offer training in clothing production, retail, design, and marketing. And, on top of all of that, it is run by the friendliest team.
I found out, when I researched it later, that The Social Outfit is modeled on the award-winning and successful social enterprise, The Social Studio. Initially, The Social Studio supported The Social Outfit and now the two organizations operate in a supportive partnership while maintaining separate legal entities. Together, they help new migrant and refugee women learn to sew, while also tackling waste in the fashion industry.
Around 50% of their fabrics are leftover fabrics, offcuts, sample swatches and trims donated by fashion designers and labels. They’ve already saved more than 3 tonnes of fabric and textile from landfills thanks to generous fashion industry supporters including Seafolly, Carla Zampatti, Ginger & Smart, Alice McCall, Cue, Bec & Bridge, Rittenhouse, Signature Prints, Tessuti Fabrics, Seneca Textiles, Jets, and Clare Press. Wow, it’s so inspiring to see projects that are part of sustainable solutions!
I was lucky enough to be there at a time when one of the trainers was in the shop. She spoke to me quickly and charmingly of the many projects that they do. She mentioned their work with Syrian refugees and showed me an article about a proposed partnership they had planned with the Iraqi community.
Another awesome project by The Social Outfit, was a collaboration with a very well known Australian fashion label, Romance Was Born. The fashion house donated a print to The Social Outfit from their archives that featured an artwork by Linda Jackson. Their designers and sewers have used the print to create a range of beautiful garments and products, exclusive to The Social Outfit. I loved hearing about a famous label taking care to support a project like this.
Some of the other community-based projects that The Social Outfit runs are with the Merrylands Community Artists and the Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC). The collaged artworks that the young artists from the Merrylands Community created in their workshops were mixed together and used in a collaborative print design for a range of products sold at The Social Outfit.
Inside The Social Outfit, there was a window where visitors could look through to see the ladies working away at their sewing machines. It was a lovely and clean working space. There was an open doorway leading to where they sat, and the team was going in and out talking to them and laughing, including the trainer who was helping them improve their craft and cheering them on.
I am so touched when I see how members of that special breed of humanity take in the weak and disenfranchised and give them love in ways that matter; with their time, money and other precious resources so they may heal, become strong and stand on their own feet. Blessed are the givers.
That store itself was such a colorful and happy take on a concept store with a vibrant kaleidoscope of different patterns featured in each design. Of course, that was the perfect place to pick up meaningful and beautiful gifts with positive energy carried within them.
There are many things to love about Australia, and I was delighted most by the number of non-profit humanist projects and sanctuaries that had been set up to support the quality of life for all. The Social Outfit, in particular, touched me so much that I went back for a second visit, where I took more photos, bought more items and spoke to the team to further wrap my head around the beautiful works of service that they do.
I also went out and walked around the neighborhood for a couple of more hours and of course had some amazing coffee, yet again. I enjoyed going into the different shops, whether it was an ice cream parlor, a bakery, or a concept store and hearing stories first-hand from those involved with social projects. What a friendly, lively and heartening walk that was thanks to my lovely thoughtful friend who brought me to Newtown. I made sure to pay it forward by taking my niece there upon our arrival together in Sydney and also to bring you along on my journey into this charming street and neighborhood.