No More New: Project Repat
According to Project Repat, 95% of the clothes we donate to Goodwill and similar organizations end up overseas, being resold in second-hand clothing markets. Sean Hewens and Ross Lohr, founders of two Boston-based non-profits (smallbean and the Newton Tanzania Collaborative) that work in Africa noticed the abundance of hip and ironic discarded American t-shirts on Kenyans. Sick of having to continually ask for money to be able to run their non-profits (something any non-profit can relate to), the two hit upon an idea that would help them raise funds in a fun and creative way using the shirts.
The plan was to buy the shirts in Africa for about a dollar or less each and “repatriate” them to the U.S. where they could give them a second life, raise money for their non-profits, and increase awareness about over-consumption in the U.S. and its global effects. “The idea is so ridiculous that it resonates with people,” explains Hewens. The repatriated shirts are silkscreened with a stamp image that shows where in Africa they are found, setting them apart from a used t-shirt you might find at a second-hand store. Yes, you could buy a used t-shirt at Goodwill, but these shirts have extra value because they bring awareness to the story of our love of shopping and fleeting trends in the U.S. At the same time, the pair are able to support entrepreneurs and artisans in Africa who sell and modify these shirts.
A wildly successful Kickstarter campaign allowed the two and a videographer to head back to Kenya to make a short film and repatriate 500 shirts (most of which have been sold- many at SOWA). Just in time for the holidays, they are back on Kickstarter, raising funds for the newest iteration of their company- the No More New campaign. They’ve partnered with a Boston fashion designer, Jacqueline Yao, to create three new products made of t-shirts: a reversible bag, a circle scarf, and a skirt. The products will be made by Kenyan artisans who currently modify shirts in the markets to make them more stylish.
The moral of the story? As you do your holiday shopping this season, tell the world you don’t need a new t-shirt. There are plenty already out there, waiting to be repatriated.
Learn more about the used clothing industry from PBS’s Tshirt Travels film and website: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/tshirttravels/film.html