Grant takes the heat off No Sweat Fashion

Published on 28 June 2013

Late last year, Hands Across Canberra donated a grant to local not for profit No Sweat Fashions to help the local manufacturing and sewing studio off the ground. Ten months on, and the organisation has thrived culminating in the launch of their first project line on Thursday 27 June.

Hands Across Canberra supported us at a time when it would have been impossible for us to start without them,CEO and founder Cindy Reese Mitchell recalls.

Without that money at that time, we wouldn’t have been able to get going. We’d been given some amazing donations of sewing equipment from local people in the community, but it didnt all work, and we didnt know that.

No Sweat Fashions is a local not for profit, small scale manufacturing and sewing studio that aims to create long term social change by training and supporting migrants and refugees. The workshop provides training, work experience and facilitates community engagement to counteract the barriers to further employment and education.

The $5,000 grant from Hands Across Canberra enabled No Sweat Fashions to fix the donated machines for use in their production studio, located at Kaleen High School.

Sewing machines need work and maintenance as it is, and that’s what that the money meant for us,Cindy said.

The recently repaired machines have been used by the 13 people currently enrolled in the course.

Hands Across Canberra came out to the studio at a time when it was difficult for us to attract attention. The grant and support from the board put us out there as a worthy local cause. In this line of work, the bigger charities get a lot of coverage and funding, which is great but sometimes the smaller ones get left behind.

The No Sweat Fashion studio is made up of two parts. The first is a pilot program that trains migrants and refugees with previous experience with garment production, and nurturing and developing their skills to try to bring them up to at least a Cert I in Clothing Production in collaboration with CIT.

We acknowledge the skills these people already have, validating and appreciating them and creating a space where they can come and contribute to. We work on developing these sought after skills and reappropriating them into the workshop, creative director Penina Huho said.

One of the challenges faced can be the process of introducing the volunteers to industry standards.

We’re helping people who have over 16 years experience [with sewing], but no industry standards. So we’re starting from the beginning, touching up on OHS and what shoes you have to wear, tying your hair back when using industrial machines, safety guides many of them have never used a safety guide before, Penina continued.

The second function of the workshop is for those who have the required experience and developed skills to help with the paid production pieces, creating products for the No Sweat Fashion product line, launching soon.

The migrants and refugees come from a diverse range of backgrounds, from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Burmese area. The studio becomes a place where the growth and development of the individuals involved is increasingly evident. The idea of social connection and linking them to their surrounding while omitting the feeling of individual isolation is one of the key theories behind this growing not for profit.

Creative director Penina sees the everyday difference No Sweat Fashion has made through the pilot program.

We work on seeing people as self sufficient and capable. There are other places that offer detailed and fully funded support. We communicate through what they know: sewing. They’ve experienced extremely traumatic circumstances, and they have truly amazing survival and even adapting skills. These people are inspiring. I think I’ve learnt more from them, then what theyll ever learn from me.

From here, No Sweat Fashion is hoping only to keep expanding and to be able to support even more people in need.

With more funding, we’d be able to continue the program, offering even more places and possibly separating the learning and production sides of the studio, Penina said.

Donate to Hands of Canberra Foundation to continue to support local organisations here.