Studiously Social

13 Oct

Another hot, yet productive, day here in Delhi. We’re making progress on accessing Games waste as the event draws to a close. Tonight Jenna, Christina and myself (Liz) made the trip to see the athletics events – it was tough getting tickets as they’re selling like hotcakes now. Yep, we even crossed the rainbow pedestrian bridge – that collapsed and was rebuilt by the army in under a week – into the impressive Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

I hope to post a few photos from the venue, but first I wanted to introduce you to a special series of interviews we’ve undertaken for the Conserve Delhi 2010 project. We’ve gone out to various professionals – from events managers to social entrepreneurs and creatives – seeking their thoughts on this initiative. We hope to make this blog an open source ideas hub, elevating and celebrating the art of upcycling.

Raphael Kilpatrick is a board member of Melbourne’s Social Studio, a social enterprise working with the city’s refugee community to create fashionwear out of recycled and excess manufacturing materials. Raphael is also the Social Studio’s resident web and audiovisual guru. We recommend the short video capturing the Social Studio’s first collection.

1. You helped establish the Social Studio. What were some of the challenges overcome in setting up this initiative?

The Social Studio began, as all challenges do, with an idea. The seed was the many barriers faced by newly arrived members of the community, things like isolation and difficulties accessing education and training. The aim was to tackle these problems by creating jobs, providing education, encouraging community engagement and social inclusion.

So the obvious idea, from the founding directors, was that we start a fashion school! This seemed completely mad at the time, but it turned out that our collective minds were not so mad.

The Social Studio has had the ability to break down most of the barriers we identified. The cutting table offers a place for our young designers to share stories and learn from one another. The café and retail front brings the public into the studio to share in this bonding while also creating jobs and training.

There is also a need in the Australian fashion industry for experienced designers and makers, so our graduates have all moved on into jobs. I guess the first major challenge was seeing the potential of an idea.


Social Studio lookbook image

Image courtesy of the Social Studio Lookbook


2. Like Conserve India, The Social Studio is an organisation described as a ‘social enterprise’. How would you define this term, and are we seeing an increase in such organisations?

I feel that innate in all people is a sense to do ‘good’ and that given the chance most people would extend this to assist others. One of the things that perhaps restricts people to pursue this desire is a feeling of hopelessness when faced with the question: how? I think there is definitely an increase in social enterprises and, as they spread, so does the knowledge of how to set one up. By their nature they are open and sharing organisations not driven by a need to protect their financial bottom line.

3. What are the main types of materials used at the Social Studio and what are the main processes you use to upcycle them into new fashion items?

The Social Studio gathers fabrics, samples and unsold stock from the local fashion industry and our amazing young designers turn them into the most beautiful clothing, in fact we are just about to release our second collection. It’s all brand new clothing from fabric that would otherwise have gone to landfill. We also offer weekend workshops to the public to teach people how to modify their old clothes. Again its about sharing the knowledge and passing on the good.

4. We love the minimalism of your website, who did you work with to create this? Conserve India is investigating an e-commerce solution to sell their products online – are there any plans for Social Studio to do something similar?


Social Studio's Raphael Kilpatrick

The Social Studio's Raphael Kilpatrick


Gee thanks. The website started as a blank page and slowly grew. The web is a wonderful place for social enterprises because people love to share. There are dozens of sites that offer tools to build your own webpage, mailing lists, forms etc. We will eventually have an online store but for now stocking the shop and pedal powered retail is keeping us busy.

5. Have you ever upcycled waste material from a major event? what do you think about this idea?

This is a really exciting prospect. The first fabric we received at The Social Studio were hundreds of really good quality red cotton t-shirts with a large print on the front. Each one had been deliberately slashed with an X to stop them being re-sold so we worked out a way to turn them into durable shopping bags with a strap and then sold them to raise money for a local aid organisation.

6. What kind of upcycled fashion items would you like to see made from Commonwealth Games waste?

I know vinyl banners have been used to make satchel bags for many years now but the potential is huge. These are really large pieces of durable waterproof material that could be used in anything from umbrellas to waterproofing on houses. It’s tough for me to suggest alternate uses for material because India is the most cleverly resourceful country I have every been to.


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  1. Style and substance « - November 11, 2010

    […] as promised we welcome Pia Jane Bijkerk to the Conserve Delhi 2010 ideas hub. Her email came winging to us all the way from her houseboat in Amsterdam (thank heavens for the […]

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