You have a voice, and your voice is important. You have a story, and your story is important.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said this phrase over the years. As a performer and educator (the things I do when I’m not writing here), I have not only said these words many times, I’ve grown to believe them more and more with each iteration.
I truly believe that one of the best solutions this world can find is to listen to each other more, to understand each other more. The power of story is a way into this, it takes away dehumanising statistics and replaces them with people that could just as easily be us, if circumstances looked slightly different. And I think recognising the humanity in others, and therefore treating each other as true equals, is one of the most important things we can do.
New company Thraedable are looking to do just that, by creating a way to not just connect us with human stories that are so often overlooked, but to carry them around with us as ethically created clothes.
Thraedable was founded by the wonderful Aghiles and Cristina (pictured above). Aghiles was born in Algeria, but moved to Birmingham in England with his family at the age of 3, as Algeria was experiencing a bloody civil war. Cristina was born and raised in Milan province, Italy, but after high school took the challenge to go study in Amsterdam, and has since become a bit of a nomad. The pair met in Paris whilst studying for their Masters degrees at Sciences Po Paris; to date they’ve lived in Algiers, Milan and London, and have often travelled even further abroad.
Thraedable began with a problem to be solved. Watching the news, Aghiles and Cristina would often be left with a deep feeling of frustration. After hours of discussion about widening inequalities and marginalisation they realised why, despite having a world of information only a click away, there are many stories that we never hear reported on the news. Having worked in the NGO sector, Cristina knew that this lack of media attention most adversely affects the grassroots NGOs that have valid answers for these hidden problems, but struggle to raise the funds needed to tackle them. Quickly the two became determined to advocate and raise funds for these NGOs who are attempting to address some of the most intractable social issues thrown up by war, hardship, and exclusion. They decided to unify their experiences and close this information and funding gap by setting up Thraedable.
With academic backgrounds in political sciences and international relations, and professional experience in both the private and NGO sectors, sustainable fashion doesn’t exactly seem like the obvious route for these two. Despite being somewhat new in the world of ethical clothing, they both saw the potential of clothes, a medium every person can see, to act as a canvas to tell the stories of those whose voice is so often silenced. Thraedable is designed both to bring invisible issues into public awareness and raise the money to tackle them simultaneously. The people these NGOs work to help are given opportunities to tell their stories through art, a medium that transcends borders and language barriers. This art then serves as a starting point for Thraedable’s designs, and the profits earned from these designs is shared 50/50 with partner NGOs.
(photo by Rooful Ali – @rooful)
Before setting up, Thraedable didn’t have any specific organisations in mind to work with. They selected their partners by researching organisations that are grassroots and local enough to truly understand the context they work in, and thus bring solutions with a strong, sustainable impact to the groups they support. It’s vital that partner organisations have a sustainable vision, one that isn’t just about alleviating people’s suffering (which is important in itself) but about empowering them to get out of the situation that makes them suffer or marginalised, creating long term solutions rather than short term fixes.
So how does it all work?
Well, like this.
Each workshop series is organised in collaboration with Thraedable’s partner organisation, and is tailored to each groups individual situation. Workshops aren’t designed to teach an art technique but instead give participants the chance to express themselves creatively in a context that is inclusive and enjoyable. To do this, workshops normally start with an icebreaker game and artistic activities aimed at overcoming the “I don’t know how to draw” moment that many people have in front of a blank paper. Thraedable aren’t trying to discover the next Picasso, (although they have spotted some serious talent) but rather the stories that can be told through these drawings. During each workshop, participants are asked if they want to share the “why” of their drawings to pass on to a wider audience, and each workshop series ends with a local exhibition (which often then turns into a party!)
The artwork created in each workshop series then becomes the inspiration for Thraedable’s t-shirts and bag designs, which are hand printed by craft screen printers in Milan, using water-based inks that don’t contain harsh solvents. The t-shirts and bags themselves are made under ethical conditions in Fair Wear factories, while materials used are either organic cotton or eco-friendly natural fibres like modal or tencel, keeping their clothes non-toxic. 50% of profits made are shared with partner NGOs, and Thraedable utilises transparency to ensure that money goes fairly and directly to social projects: they give their partners access to their profit and loss accounts for their dedicated line, and in return Thraedable sees where the revenues generated are specifically spent.
If that wasn’t enough, Thraedable also have an online magazine to share these stories further, with an in depth, considered approach to media that is often lacking in current climates. As Cristina told me:
‘We want to tell stories of exclusion through the “threads on our backs” and the “threads on our media”. This means that each Thraedable clothing line tells a story that corresponds to an informative section on our online platform in articles that dig deeper into the issues at hand. I like to see Thraedable as a multidisciplinary venture that mixes art, fashion and information, so that our products are always connected to the stories they tell and the realities and experiences of their protagonists’
Although a new company, the positive feedback and encouragement for Thraedable is already amazing (seriously, they launched their crowdfunding campaign yesterday and are already smashing it!) Their main goal right now is to meet their crowdfunding target, meaning they can start supporting their partners, as well as expanding to work with new NGOs and projects. In future they hope to continue to raise awareness and funds for stories that deserve to be heard through their clothes, as well as expanding their media platform to be broader and more in depth.
I love what they have to say about themselves:
‘We do not want to create a one-way helper and helped relationship. We aim to go beyond simply giving back part of our income to society. The people we work with are the essence of our company, which is why rather than a practice of giving, we offer an exchange between equal partners.’
This goes back to the idea of story for me. I once heard someone say ‘You don’t have to be a voice for the voiceless, simply pass the mic’, and that’s what Thraedable are doing. They operate as a platform that the voiceless can stand on, the mic through which they can speak. Instead of speaking over them, Thraedable allow the people that can so often be left invisible to stand up and be seen. To help them know that they have a voice, and their voice is important. That they have a story, and their story is important.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.
Post created in collaboration with Thraedable