In a small building on a former servo site at Moonee Ponds Junction, lives are being transformed one stitch at a time.
Assembled Threads is a social enterprise helping to upskill garment makers, guide them towards a qualification, and provide a pathway to ongoing employment.
Their first products are reversible face masks and a soon-to-be-launched range of linen homewares such as aprons, tea-towels, napkins, bags and picnic blankets.
They are working towards branching into promotional workwear, industry-grade PPE, and even fluorescent safety vests made from recycled plastic bottles.
Thirteen local residents have started training at Assembled Threads under the skilled guidance of Julie Wright, head of fashion programs at Holmesglen.
These are people with sewing experience ranging from basic to very advanced. They span in age from 24 to 61. Some are refugees and some are asylum seekers. Despite differences in culture, language, religion and education, they are already forming friendships.
The Council-supported program is piloted by Edwina Walsh and Danielle Heaven. “The people we are working with have strong cultural sewing skills, but not all of them have garment industry experience,” Edwina said.
“We provide skills training on industrial sewing machines, working towards a Certificate III in Clothing and Textile Production. The next stage is creating a pathway to genuine employment.”
Everyone involved with the project is committed to the values of being people-centred, planet-positive and Australian made.
“In Australia we’ve walked away from local manufacturing in the rag trade,” Edwina said. “Consumers are increasingly questioning where products are made.
“In places like Scotland and California they are way ahead of us in focussing on the social and environmental impact of local manufacturing.
“We would love to see governments and businesses increasing social procurement, leveraging their buying power to support local garment makers using local fabrics and local designers.
“This is the keenest group of people you can imagine. People are turning up 20 minutes early each day, poring over sewing manuals at every chance and watching each other’s techniques to pick up all the knowledge they can.”
Participants have the opportunity to earn an income, strengthen their English language skills and build their confidence within a safe and welcoming space. The daily schedule is designed to provide flexibility for participants with obligations such as caring for school-aged children.
Moonee Valley City Council is committed to supporting employment-focused social enterprises that help provide local jobs for local people finding it difficult to secure meaningful work.
Council’s Economic Development team and Flemington Works team, funded by Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, have supported Assembled Threads through candidate identification, identifying procurement opportunities and supporting access to an appropriate test-site.
Since the Mt Alexander Road site was purchased by Council we have rebuilt it as a business co-working lab, suitable for micro start-ups such as Assembled Threads, the first lease-holder.
“We are determined to have a social impact,” Assembled Threads co-founder Danielle said. “We are working to achieve equality for people who have been locked out of employment, using skills they already have. The benefits include mental health, overcoming isolation and overcoming long-term unemployment.
“We are doing this because it’s too important not to. It’s a passion project, but we want to see it become sustainable and continue into the future.”
Keep an eye on their website for pre-sale orders from late November.