The Social Outfit
Colourful job creation
The Social Outfit is a social enterprise based in Newtown, Sydney. It uses fashion to provide training and employment for people from refugee and new migrant communities in the greater Sydney area. The Social Outfit is based on an award-winning social enterprise, The Social Studio, which has been trading in Melbourne since 2009.
TSO credits five years of VFFF support totalling $586,560 with providing critical stability to their start-up phase, enabling them to deliver five consecutive years of financial surplus and progressively build up net assets.
In 2013, The Social Outfit approached VFFF seeking seed funding to establish a retail store and training facility in Sydney. The store would provide on-site training in retail, fashion design and manufacturing to refugees and newly arrived migrants, with a shop and workspace housed together. It would also offer participants instore employment as retail assistants and clothing manufacturers.
People from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds face significant barriers to participation in employment and education. Social enterprises like The Social Outfit that offer ‘earn-and-learn’ opportunities provide a foot in the employment and training door, increasing the chance of participants transitioning into other work and education. VFFF was encouraged by the success of Melbourne’s The Social Studio and could see the potential in replicating this successful model in Sydney. A motivating factor was that The Social Outfit was at a critical stage of development when philanthropic support would be particularly useful - seed funding from VFFF and co-funding partner Dusseldorp Forum allowed The Social Outfit to ‘open its doors’ in Newtown in June 2014.
TSO has paid half a million dollars directly to refugees and new migrants in wages and work experience payments. The complexity behind providing a first Australian job to 22 of 26 total staff and assisting 20 in moving on to other employment cannot be underestimated – let alone the value of a first pay cheque and job. Their work has changed individuals’ and families’ lives for the better in so many ways.
“Support from VFFF has been instrumental to The Social Outfit, and we’re incredibly grateful for this early investment in our social enterprise. Thanks to the partnership with VFFF and Dusseldorp Forum, we secured enough funding to begin our first fully-operational year. When the doors opened in June 2014 it was so exciting for us and our community! Now we’re all focussed on working hard to provide ongoing skills-training and great fashion for people to wear.”
Jackie Ruddock, Founding CEO