Back in September of 2021 Levi’s® announced its partnership with Clothes to Good in running a jeans collection drive, as part of the brand’s global Buy Better, Wear Longer initiative. The drive called on the public to donate their pre-loved jeans, no matter the brand, at their nearest Levi’s® store. The donated jeans were provided to Clothes to Good to assist in the creation of employment opportunities for South African women in need, and ultimately keep jeans out of landfills.
Clothes to Good is a value-centred, fully inclusive social enterprise that is committed to operating as a green ecosystem. Among the organisation’s initiatives is its micro-business program. The program currently empowers 108 women – 56 of whom have children with disabilities – to become successful entrepreneurs in their communities by selling recycled, pre-loved clothes. Jeans that are not in a re-sellable condition are upcycled into new items, including toys for children with disabilities.
Now we had to opportunity to interview Clothes to Good’s Operations Director and Managing Director of Life Tammy Greyling just before 2021 ended to find out how successful the partnership has been since its launch, what makes the relationship between Clothes to Good & Levi’s® work, the creative processes behind repurposing jeans and more.
This creates hope and better, empowered and happier communities.
Back in September, the partnership (Jeans Collections Drive) between Levi’s® and Clothes to Good was announced and this partnership called on the people to donate their pre-loved jeans which provided Clothes to Good the opportunity to create micro-business development opportunities for South African women in need and employment opportunities for people with disabilities and their families. How successful has the partnership been since the announcement?
This initiative has been a resounding success! Clothes to Good continues to receive pre-loved jeans from stores that are generating an income for our micro-businesses. Jeans that are not in good condition anymore are being upcycled into disability-specific products and consumer products such as tote bags, bucket hats and aprons made from recycled denim. Many items were created by mothers of children with disabilities over the last 4 months, which creating much-needed income for their families
Apart from creating employment opportunities, what other roles do you think partnerships like these play in society?
The Clothes to Good programme is more than creating employment, it starts with awareness of the power of recycling and caring for our planet, the value of including people with disabilities in our businesses and society and the opportunity to have a successful business of your own. The Clothes to Good ecosystem is an example of how people can work together to make a meaningful contribution.
Let’s talk about how much work it takes to not only manage but essentially inspire people to partake in such a drive, what has been the most challenging part of making this drive successful and what inspired both Clothes to Good & Levi’s® to push through all those challenges?
One of the challenges is getting more people to participate in recycling their jeans. Being able to empower people with disabilities and their families, hearing their success stories and how this is changing lives keep us going.
The relationship between Clothes to Good & Levi’s® just seems & feels so organic… When did the relationship between the two entities begin and what do you think makes this partnership such a perfect one?
The collaboration was introduced to Clothes to Good by Do Good, Feel Good. Clothes To Good valued the opportunity to work with Levi’s especially because of their credibility in the denim world but also because of the opportunities it would create for people with disabilities and their families in terms of micro-business development.
We had an opportunity to look at the items that were created from buckets hats to even cushion chairs. What creative processes were gone through to create those items because repurposing jeans into those pieces doesn’t seem easy?
Clothes to Good is really passionate about upcycling and although being a difficult process, the Clothes to Good sewing team is just incredible when it comes to creating products from any material. We made many mistakes, worked through many nights to make sure products were good quality and regarding the creative process – some things just happen when you are passionate and inspired.
This drive is surely an important one and thinking about it had us thinking about the message that it broadcasts. What message does a drive such as this convey in your opinion?
The message about contributing to the world and not focusing on competition is an important one. When we understand that we are all responsible to look after our planet, that when we shift our focus and ask: “how can I contribute the world instead of what can I gain?”, the world becomes a better place for us and others. This creates hope and better, empowered and happier communities.
Finally, how else can the public reach out or get involved with all the good works Clothes to Good does?
They can work with us to encourage more people to recycle their clothes. Encourage their high resourced schools and staff volunteerism teams to join Clothes to Good programmes such as Clothes to Trees – planting thousands of Spekbooms, Clothes to Wheels – putting children with disabilities into orthopaedic wheelchairs, Clothes to Play – creating toys from recyclable materials for children in disadvantaged communities or Clothes to Food – packing nutritional meals for families in need.
For more information about the initiative visit www.levi.co.za/blog and follow @levis_southafrica on Instagram and @Levi’s on Facebook, as well as #DoGoodFeelGood.
Stay up to date with the work being done at Clothes to Good by visiting www.clothestogood.com.