Social Fabric

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Social Fabric: A sustainable textile hub

Zurich, SwitzerlandZurich, Switzerland
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are a sustainable textile hub, located in Zurich Switzerland. We provide access to education in textiles and sewing for individuals, we sell sustainable textiles, and we offer local production to small companies and designers. We also support innovation by refugees.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could unleash the creative and change-making potential of every individual?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Rather than trying to make small changes in existing value chains in the garment industry, the project is trying to establish entirely new value chains, that focus on local production using sustainable materials, either by consumers themselves, or by local businesses. In this way, we are trying to drastically reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of garment production.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We are providing a number of solutions to different problems: 1. People lack awareness about problems in the garment industry. We offer sewing and textile courses to individuals, during which we create awareness. 2. Individuals and small designers lack access to high quality, sustainable materials. We provide access to an inventory of sustainable fabrics, and a network of European manufacturers of sustainable materials. 3. There is no longer any local garment production capacity in Switzerland. We provide a small local production team for small businesses and designers. 4. There is a lack of innovation in the textile industry. We stimulate innovation and creativity among our members.

Awards

Innovate 4 Climate Award, Stage 1, CHF 15 000
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A local gym contacted us recently, because they are interested in having promotional t-shirts custom designed, and locally produced. Yesterday they signed a purchase order to manufacture a hundred t-shirts. The gym is going to carefully document the design and production process, and communicate this to it's members, so they gain insight into how the garments are produced sustainably and locally. We sourced Tencel jersey which is manufactured in Portugal, using Tencel fibers that are sustainably manufactured in Austria. The supply chain is short and transparent. We will hire a refugee (we run a refugee project at Social Fabric) to assist with production of the t-shirts.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The biggest impact is changing consumer behaviour. We currently have about 100 clients, and a communications reach of about 500 people, and we use an inclusive community strategy to inform them about problems with the garment industry. At the same time, we provide them with solutions (expertise, sustainable materials, and channels for purchasing sustainable garments). We are also providing small designers and local businesses with access to high quality materials and production capacity which are normally difficult to access. This makes it feasible and attractive for these companies to produce garments that have a small ecological and social footprint. In turn, these companies communicate to their own customers about the sustainability of their garments, which has a multiplicative effect on changing consumer behaviour. Finally, we are incubating a community of people with big ideas.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We plan to establish a series of sustainable textile hubs in major cities globally. As Social Fabric grows, economies of scale will reduce the cost (and expense to the consumer) of sustainable, locally produced materials, making it in turn more attractive for businesses to produce with Social Fabric. As we establish more locations, our brand and our brand values will become stronger, and our ability to change consumer behaviour will multiply. Eventually, we plan to acquire our own manufacturing facilities, and even our own fibre production capacity, so we can fully control our supply chain.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our pilot is currently generating about CHF 6000 a month in revenue from clients. Most of the revenue comes from giving courses. In January, we are launching co-working memberships, and we already pre-sold six of those through a crowdfunding campaign that we are currently running. Our next step is to increase our revenue from production contracts and textile sales. Textile sales are the most scalable part of our business plan.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are a number of fashion incubation centers globally (for example, the Toronto Fashion Incubator), but none of these are promoting the use of sustainable materials. There are also a number of sustainable textile distributors (for example, Lebenskleidung and Interloom in Europe), but these provide access to a limited selection of materials, and also do nothing to address consumer behaviour. Social Fabric is unique in that it is developing a community of people who are interested in the fashion supply chain, and therefore it is well-suited to raising awareness and creating market demand.
Team

Founding Story

When I started Social Fabric last January, I was feeling a bit lost in my scientific career, and I was looking to do something that would create more meaning and a sense of community purpose. Fabrics and clothing are such a big part of our daily lives, and yet, we often don’t really think about what went into our clothes before we put them on each morning. For me, Social Fabric has been about bringing together a group of intelligent, creative, and diverse women (mostly), into a setting where we can not only learn new skills, but brainstorm about how we can create meaningful change.

Team

I am the sole founder of Social Fabric, and I have a PhD and research experience in ecology, and so am well suited to understanding the technical and scientific aspects of fibre and fabric production. Perhaps more importantly, I was born to be an entrepreneur, and I am a great mover and problem solver. I have two part-time employees; Stoyanka Krasteva is a talented tailor from Bulgaria, who's family owned a garment production factory, and is well-versed in industrial garment production methods. Helka Mäki is from Finland, studied dressmaking, and has a Masters degree in textile handicrafts. I work casually with a number of other independent contractors, including tailors and designers.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Consumer, Factory Owner, Researcher, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Designers, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor, Women, Other [please specify].

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Organizing, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes, I am incubating and collaborating with other entrepreneurs who are aiming to make change in the textile/garment industries

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

I am building partnerships with other small brands in Zürich that focus on sustainability and/or local production.