New Zealand based boutique streetwear label ReCreate, is well and truly changing up the fashion industry with their clothing made under excellent fair trade working conditions, using only certified organic fabrics that are sustainably produced from crop through to customer.
All of ReCreate’s pieces are made ethically in Day Tmey, Cambodia. Dey Tmey is known as ‘new land’, after those who originally lived as slum dwellers in Pnhom Penh were evicted by authorities in an effort to improve tourism within Cambodia. According to ReCreate’s site, those who found themselves in Day Tmey, were often in desperate situation with little opportunity for employment or education. This resulted in most of the income coming through prositution, drugs, washing clothes or selling food. Children were also kept home from school to collect rubbish, watch siblings or in the worst cases sold for slave labour or to brothels.
In 2013, after several years of working alongside a local non-profit organisation within Dey Tmey, the founders of ReCreate, Erica Gadsby and Deborah de Graaf, became inspired to establish an opportunity in the area for women. Soon after, they set up ReCreate’s sewing centre where the students of ReCreate were able to learn a new skill in order to transform their lives. Not only do they train and employ students within the Day They community who have a desire to learn a lifelong skill that will provide for themselves, their families and their futures, they also offer students lessons in money management, reading and writing, and basic healthcare.
ReCreate operates in Dey Tmey in conjunction with a New Zealand Registered Charitable Trust and as members of the Fair Trade Association (FTAANZ), so you can ensure that all of the women who make your garments are paid a fair wage.
On top of this, ReCreate openly publish on their site the working conditions of their sewing centre, which if you’re interested are:
Living wages with the opportunity to earn matched savings every month
A 32 hour work week to ensure plenty of time for family and life outside of work
Full sewing training covering every step of the garment making process
Additional training in areas such as money management, basic healthcare, reading and writing
Paid holiday leave, sick leave, maternity care and overtime pay
The opportunity to care for younger children on site or support to send older children to school
A well ventilated, light and beautiful working environment
This transparency goes above and beyond that of most fashion retailers, from saying ‘we are committed to providing fair working conditions’, to actually showcases what those values are for them as a business.
On top of ensuring all of their pieces are ethically made, ReCreate also ensure that all of their fabrics are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and all of their denim is sourced through as well as the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
They also use only 100% recycled, recyclable, reusable and biodegradable shipping bags, as well as import their garments to New Zealand using a carbon neutral shipping service and only use recyclable paper and cardboard packaging. However the above are only a few of the multitude of ways that ReCreate ensures that for every area their business touches, they are doing as little harm as possible.
ReCreate for me, is one of the core businesses I go to when explaining to those who are new to the world of ethical fashion and conscious consumption about how businesses can infact make a difference, and create stylish clothing where they not only empower rather than exploit those who make their clothes, but leave as little of a footprint in the process as possible.
PS. Did I mention that 100% of their profits are dedicated towards community projects and initiatives? ReCreate really does seek to continually embody their tagline which is “boutique streetwear that transforms lives”.
Behind the Brand:
An interview with Erica Gadsby and Deborah de Graaf, the co-founder of ReCreate.
What made you start ReCreate?
ReCreate started after working alongside an NGO in the community of Dey Tmey, Cambodia over a number of years. The people of Dey Tmey were originally slum dwellers who lived in the capital city of Phnom Penh, but in 2007 they were evicted by the authorities into a new rural community. As it was far from former jobs and schools, the people quickly found themselves in desperate situations with little opportunity for employment or education. So ReCreate came from wanting to provide an opportunity for women to train and receive fair employment which would give them skills and opportunities and empower them to protect and provide for their children.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since beginning?
Our biggest challenge is definitely producing our clothing in a foreign, developing country. We have long ago realised that when we’ve got a certain production schedule or plan in mind it will almost never go according to plan – and most of the time we can’t really explain why! So this has really taught us to relax and embrace the cultural differences.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of ReCreate, who made your clothes? Can you tell us a bit about them?
We absolutely love our sewing team in Cambodia! Although we originally started with a focus to empower women, we now employ a small team of both men and women who are from the Dey Tmey community. We still have our very first student from day one, who is now our sewing trainer. Her husband also came to work with us in sewing and machine repair, so it really is a very close, family oriented team! New students join the team every year and it’s so lovely to see existing team members support and encourage one another in learning a new skill.
Why did you pick the fabrics or materials that you have chosen to work with?
From day one it was an easy decision for us to use only organic fibres. Our focus at ReCreate is to respect people and the environment so we believe that using ethical and organic fabric is an essential way to achieve this. We’ve also recently developed our own line of signature organic fabrics which was an easy choice as it’s so soft and luxurious, you just want to wear it all the time!
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Just do it”. Probably the best brand slogan of all time, but also the best piece of advice. It summarises living life to the fullest, chasing your dreams and working hard to meet your goals in three beautiful, concise little words.
Why was it important to you to make your brand ethical?
As young mothers, we know that being able to provide and care for your children is the desire of all parents – so we were compelled to help other women achieve their potential by providing them with a way in which to do so. So you could say the ethics came before the brand! We firstly wanted to do something that would provide opportunity and employment for women, so the clothing brand was simply the best way to sustainably do this on an ongoing basis.
What is something others wouldn't know about starting an ethical business that you think they should?
That with every decision, there will be a faster, cheaper, easier way to do it, so you’d better be pretty sure on why being an ethical business matters to you.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Get the right people around you to support, encourage and do things better than you can on your own.
Where do you envision ReCreate in the future?
As New Zealand’s leading ethical boutique streetwear label! Along the way we want to raise the profile and awareness of ethical fashion and why it’s important too. We want to provide consumers with ethical and sustainable choices in every city and town throughout Aotearoa. On the Cambodia side, we want to keep developing our sewing centre in Dey Tmey and our development projects within the community. The more we grow, the more lives we can impact in a positive way.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
A mindset of gratitude is one of the most important factors – not just for ReCreate but also for life! By remaining thankful for all that we have – even the tough stuff – it is such a good way to remain focused on what is good in a society that is pretty open to comparison and complaining. We are blessed with so much opportunity, it just seems right to share it around.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
The morning routine is slightly dictated by tiny people currently! However there are definitely some essential elements for a great day ahead. A nicely ordered to-do list really cuts down on the middle-of-the-night mind jolts and starts the day off with a clear picture of what needs to be done. Start with the most important jobs first and the rest (in theory!) falls beautifully into place.
One book everyone should read? Why?
So many great books to choose from but Made To Stick by the Heath brothers is such a goodie. It’s about how to make ideas “stick”, or basically, how to be memorable! Plus you gotta love a book packed full of interesting tales.
One documentary everyone should watch? Why?
The True Cost is the definitive documentary for anyone interested in ethical fashion, whether you know a little or a lot. From our experience in travelling and working in the industry it really tells a very true story of what the fashion industry currently looks like.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
We just love people who are living outside of the norm and doing things a little differently! Mel Chan, our partner NGO director in Cambodia who works every day with marginalised people in slum communities; Ethically Kate, making it work in the world of sustainable living; and Elisha Watson of Nisa, packing in lawyer life to make ethical knickers with former refugees in Wellington.