I always joke about how I ended up working in the textile industry; that I kind of rolled into it and stayed. But really, it was quite a long journey of personal and professional transformation. The experience looking back feels more like a spiral that consistently goes in circles, but I learned so much on the way that I never ended up in the same place.
After a few years, I realized that I had outgrown the position and my mind was set on doing something brand new; I wanted to run my own business. Thanks to my boss at the time, I was introduced to the wonderful Groundswell Education Society, a social entrepreneurship business school. It was through this connection that I was made aware of, for the first time ever, what social entrepreneurship really is.
I started the Groundswell program back in 2013 and it changed my life. Through the program, I was able to dig deep enough to discover what really motivates me: working with the creative community, visual aesthetics, and the perspective that waste can be a resource. It was then that I discovered the concept of a circular economy and following this discovery, I started my first initiative in the Textile Waste world: Frameworq.
Frameworq Education Society
Developing my first initiative in the sustainable apparel and textile waste world was quite a journey. I made connections with other like-minded businesses and individuals, people that shared my values and passion and I felt that I really found my community.
Today, Frameworq has blossomed into a nonprofit called Frameworq Education Society that hosts regular Clothing Fix It events in libraries and community centres and has a mission to overthrow a throwaway culture, bring back repair skills, build resilient communities, and divert textile waste from the landfill. I serve as the Executive Director for the society and you’ll find me at most of the Clothing Fix Its events we run at the Mount Pleasant Library and all over Metro Vancouver. I might not be able to construct a full garment, but I sure can help you hack a tricky repair!
While I was working on Frameworq back in 2017, I also started noticing quite a big gap that exists between the apparel industry and the local creative community. Often what is considered to be waste for one, is a resource for another. I realized that bridging this gap to allow for waste to be converted into resources was absolutely fascinating to me and it completely aligned with my values and work.
And that is exactly how FABCYCLE was born. FABCYCLE is a play on the words FAB = fabric CYCLE = recycle, and our mission is to convert waste into resources by creating innovative solutions to textile waste.
FABCYLCE initially started as a collection service for textile waste recycling. We first started working with small independent designers and schools that shared the same values as us and were looking for solutions to recycle their scraps and offcuts. But in time, we expanded our client base to larger brands, factories that manufacture clothing, as well as film and hospitality industries. Everyone has textile waste and the people behind the organizations do not want to see the beautiful fabrics they work with go to waste.
We eventually started getting more and more materials that were considered to be textile waste, but were far from being waste. We received beautiful end of roll deadstock fabrics such as linen, bamboo, cotton, wool, athletic fabrics, zippers, threads, fringe, buttons, and the list goes on and on.
It was absolutely mind-boggling that these beautiful deadstock materials were considered to be garbage because they are no longer needed. But that is the textile industry and that’s just how things are. It is time for a change and seeing how much of this “textile waste” is out there, made us see how much the work we do here is important and impactful.
Textile Waste ReUSE Centre
Having all these materials available made us realize that we need to create a physical space for the creative community to come together. A hub where we can provide free fabric scraps and accessible materials to any maker, creator, upcycler, and artist to use.
And so the Textile Waste ReUSE Centre was born. We opened the doors in 2019 and the experience of engaging with the creative community has been nothing but magical. Seeing how something that was considered to be waste transformed into a beautiful garment or a colourful art piece makes my heart ring a thousand bells and it’s what keeps the fire going even when things get tough.
And it does get challenging at times. There are thousands of small challenges every day, whether it be operational, inventory, financial or just things not going smoothly and running a small social enterprise is tough.
But it’s also rewarding and as long as there’s textile waste out there and we have our community to support us, we’ll keep on going, diverting each scrap and each end of roll one at a time.
Thank you for your support and for being part of our community.
Other initiatives Irina is part of:
Regional Coordinator for Fashion Revolution