Cape Town, South Africa
The short answer is because at Abel we believe we can all make a difference! The long answer is there were quite a few steps along the way that led to this unconventional path. One step was that I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, a beautiful place with lots of hard realities.
Somehow this place imprinted on my childhood in ways I'm always re-discovering. We moved to Canada early on (when I was 5 or 6 years old) and we only returned a few times. Even though I didn't spend tons of time there, I felt at peace every time we went back and because of these trips I also grew up knowing I was privileged. I wouldn't have called it that as a child, but since I was young I felt strongly about the realities I was part of and the people I am still connected to.
One trip I was at a big outdoor market and noticed these remarkable little boxes:
"The kliketyklikbox™ is a versatile and trendy, yet practical and upmarket, eco-friendly gift box recycled from plastic 2-litre cool drink bottles. Women who have been unemployed for longer than 2 years are taught the skills needed to create these boxes, while at the same time learning business management, life and sales skills." - www.eveandnico.com/klikety-klik-gift-boxes/
These boxes changed my life! I'm still amazed at the creativity of using waste in such a thoughtful way, and the powerful impact they are still making to this day for women experiencing poverty in Cape Town. It must have been evident that I was inspired, because I was invited by the woman who invented All Women Recycling to visit their workshop.
"All Women Recycling was born from an idea to turn a plastic bottle into a marketable product that could be sold globally, and empower women locally." - www.allwomenrecycling.com/about/our-story
Meeting Lynn Worsley and visiting their workshop gave me so much to think about and I'm still processing these ideas to this day. I hope to include a lot of these ideas that we wrestle with at Abel in future blog posts and open these conversations up to you all!
TOMS shoes was another inspiration, remember those? I really think the slow fashion movement grew from their example. I also read books like "Start Something That Matters" by Blake Mycoskie and "Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution" by Sofia Minney the Founder of People Tree.
I then studied International Development at Capilano University to try to understand the world around me and my textbook's answers to some of the world's most challenging inequality left me indignant, especially when these books were written without mention of colonialism or multinational corporations.
And then after having worked for a few non-profits I was struck by their reoccurring problem which was that of being donor dependant. Donors also didn't feel connected to just writing cheques to causes. This was clearly an unsustainable solution for long term impact. Therefore, job creation and social enterprise became my focus and Abel Wear Incorporated was born from the reality that we all want to see change and be part of it.
It's hard to address all the aspects of Why Abel exists. It's been a long journey! Hopefully as we unpack more of our ethos and brand values you will see the big picture of why Abel is here and how you can build our communities with us.
(Jenny Lai's NOT Garments X Chris Saunders - Photography featured at MOAD Johannesburg 2014)
At Abel Wear we are so grateful to all of you for thinking through the realities of the fashion supply chain that are still violent and exploitative, but we believe it's changing! We're all making a difference by shopping locally or thrifting, or using our dollars to vote for a better system, one where people are the focus! We are all asking good questions and going deeper into the mistakes of the past so we can bring hope and change to the future! This is a bit of the "why", thank you for being here!