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SOFFA: Social Fashion Factory

Geographic Area

Greece

City

Athens

Language

Greek

Type of Information

Project or programme

Organisation

SOFFA Social Fashion Factory

Contact Person

Dr. Fiori Zafeiropoulou (Login to send email)

Contact Person Function

CEO and Founder

Ongoing Project

Yes

Summary

SOFFA (Social Fashion Factory) works to transform and reorganise the fashion industry.

The project was co-created by survivors, refugees, NGOs, fashion designers and professionals. It supports refugees and survivors of human trafficking through the integration process and into the workplace, teaching micro-entrepreneurship and essential employment skills.

The project's vision is to be an industry disruptor: one which leads in producing and manufacturing ethical fashion through empowering people for ethical and sustainable industrial transformation.

SOFFA has three tiers:

  1. SOFFA Factory - a production line for clothing, footwear and accessories made from sustainable recyclable materials.
  2. SOFFA Textile - a sustainable textile marketplace providing for the livelihoods of producers. At the same it fights for transparent and ethical supply chains that respect workers' rights, disrupts human trafficking and forced or child labour and acts for the preservation of the planet.
  3. SoFE Hub - a fashion 'incubator' providing training and education for trafficked women, refugees and youth unemployed in Europe, offering integration into work or entrepreneurship programmes. An online sustainable designers’ marketplace to reach international markets. 

Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption

The fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter, behind the oil industry. It also ranks second in the world for enslavement, behind the sex industry. These issues, in addition to the effects of the European 'refugee crisis', youth unemployment and a lack of awareness on the part of the general public around clothing production, are the main challenges that SOFFA aims to tackle.

Key project goals include:

  • To provide work and integration support to trafficking survivors and refugees;
  • To produce fashion from natural, man-made or recycled biodegradable materials;
  • To provide training on becoming an ethical and sustainable fashion entrepreneur;
  • To enable access to production machinery and sustainable materials;
  • To train the ethical consumer of tomorrow and to be the starting point of a fashion revolution in Greece.

How does it work

For partners, the project targets established high-street brands and chains which are looking to launch a sustainable collection, and might therefore consider producing at SOFFA. It also facilitates the launch of sustainable start-up brands and designers through its incubator.

For consumers, SOFFA targets consumers of ethical fashion, aged 35+, who have supported social and environmental issues for the last five to ten years and are willing to pay a little extra for sustainable, ethical pieces. It does not usually target general followers of fashion or those unaccustomed to buying designer fashion items.

The first stage in employment integration for refugees and victims of trafficking is technical fashion skills training, followed by the second stage: employment at SOFFA Production.

Participant recruitment:

  1. Survivors of human trafficking are recruited through NGO collaboration and SOFFA training workshops at shelters for trafficked individuals;
  2. Refugees are recruited through collaboration with frontline NGOs and camp managers, such as Metadrasi in Tavors, Organization Earth in Lavrio Camp, Caritas Hellas and Caritas Athens, Generation 2.0, Impact Hub Athens and Hestia Hellas;
  3. Recruitment is also carried out via our online platform, Refergon. Refergon matches skilled refugees with employers and unskilled refugees with training programmes.

© SOFFA, June 2020

Results

Project results to date:

  • 5 women trafficking survivors living in a shelter in Athens have fully completed their fashion and production training, and are now working in a social enterprise;
  • 6 people from Lavrio refugee camp completed training workshops and have now been relocated to other countries, where they are using their new skills;
  • 5 people who completed training workshops in conjunction with Metadrasi are now undergoing a full training programme;
  • 2 people with refugee status are now employed part-time as coaches / translators at SOFFA;
  • 1 previously unemployed production manager is now employed part-time at SOFFA;
  • 2 designers (one of Greek, the other of migrant origin) are now employed part-time at SOFFA;
  • 5 other highly skilled professionals are now also employed by SOFFA;
  • The SOFFA team has presented its project and business model across Greece to raise awareness i) of the significance of employment for the integration of refugees and victims of trafficking, and ii) of encouraging social, responsible fashion.

Tangible actions to date:

  • Numerous presentations and demonstrations at panel discussions;
  • Workshops for sustainable fashion designers;
  • Pop-up markets of sustainable designers, for selling and networking;
  • 'Kid’s corners' at events, suggesting games for tomorrow’s ethical consumers;
  • Swap bazaars and recycling points;
  • A refugee artist challenge;
  • A costume exhibition of renowned designers;
  • International film premieres on sustainable fashion;
  • Pitching sessions for global start-ups and an award ceremony.

SOFFA presented at TeDX Alexandrupolis, March 2016:

Evaluation

No formal evaluation has yet been carried out: evaluation so far has been via visible results, impact felt and ongoing feedback from participants and the public.

Who will benefit?

Unemployed refugees, victims of trafficking, unemployed Greek designers and other professionals with an interest in sustainable, ethical fashion. On a wider scale, Greek society, the fashion industry in general and the planet itself will all benefit.

Source of funding and Resources used

  • Funding for the project has come from coordinators' own capital, investors and various other resources.
  • SOFFA’s partners are NGO N2 in Athens and NGO A21 in Thessaloniki, which are supporting modern slaves and trafficked women with shelter and support.
  • Further partners include Zita Group, Fashion Revolution, University of Zurich, Brunel University, Athens University of Economics and Business, Spoleczna Akademia Nauk, The Nest Social Coop, Authenticitys and Eolas.