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It all starts with a thread | Meet Anthony Chesler, CEO of circular fashion charity Thread Together

Thread Together has diverted more than 3 million pieces of clothing from landfill and this number continues to grow each day.

by The AFC

10 March 2022

Founded in 2012 with the simple idea to donate over dispose, Australian charity Thread Together has been diverting clothing from landfill by collecting brand new, unsold clothes from brands all around the country and providing them to people and communities in need. We spoke to Anthony Chesler, CEO of Thread Together about the inner workings of the charity along with what the coming year holds.

Q1. Before Thread Together you worked in a leadership role within management consulting. What led to you Thread Together and how has your previous experience informed your role as CEO?

Working in the not-for-profit space is new for me. After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I began my career at EY and later co-founded a technology business in 2000 which evolved into a management consultancy driving profit improvement which was later acquired by global outsourcing business.
After helping to solve many complex problems for large local and global organisations, I started searching for more meaningful complex problems to solve and I also wanted to know that the time I was spending was not necessarily lining shareholder value but actually helping people in need, particularly vulnerable Australians as well as our environment.
“A lot of people go, ‘Well, you have to be successful first to be able to then give back’. I was of the belief that you can give back along the journey and you don’t have to wait until the back end of your career to contribute,”

Q2. With more than 3 million units of clothing delivered by Thread Together to communities in need, can you unpack that number by giving us some insight into the day to day proceedings at the Thread Together HQ?

Thread Together has diverted more than 3 million pieces of clothing from landfill and this number continues to grow each day.
Every week, we are working alongside registered charities, welfare and social service agencies to provide clothing to more than 2,000 Australians doing it tough.
These include women escaping domestic violence, homeless adults, and children, and those who just arrived in the country seeking refuge. New clothing is also provided to the long-term unemployed, seeking equal standing when going to an interview, those coming out of long-term health care, and many who are rebuilding their lives after being devastated by the droughts, floods and the bushfires and more recently the pandemic.
In a typical week we send nearly 25,000 units of clothing all around the country.
Thread Together offers a frictionless solution to brands to manage their excess stock in the most ethical way.
When ready, we arrange to collect the products and bring them back to our centre. Then every day we host our network of corporate and community volunteers as well as many fashion brands to help us to sort the clothes into categories and sizes so that they are ready to be given to someone in need, for example a person returning to the workforce having been unemployed for a long time is given a new suit, shirts, ties, shoes etc.

Q3. Can you tell us about the Thread Together Clothing Hubs/offering that ‘in-store’ experience within communities in need?

When we give clothes to people, we provide choice to them, in the same way that we choose what we want to wear. This is very important to empowering people and restoring dignity and hope for a better tomorrow.
Today, we have three ways in which we give clothing to people. The first is what we call a “clothing hub”. We have created an authentic shopping experience for someone doing it tough. How does this work? Well, social service agencies all around the country, provide a “gift card” (a voucher or a referral) to their clients to come into our “clothing hubs” to browse, try-on and select clothing that meets their style. Often, they are being supported and styled by a fashion brand that donates clothing to us. The people that we are helping can access clothes for themselves and their children. A typical wardrobe for a person in need can be 30-40 units of clothing or more than 50 units for someone that has left a domestic and abusive relationship with nothing.
The second way we provide new clothing to people is via a fleet of our mobile wardrobes stationed around the country. These vehicles are fitted out with a walk-in-wardrobe and merchandised with appropriate clothing. We drive to community partners around the country and give their clients the opportunity to choose clothes. Our fleet used extensively during natural disasters.
The final way is via online, in this case, social-workers sit alongside their clients and help them to select clothes, in the same way that anyone shops online – exact same experience. Being able to offer a service online means we can get clothing to people in need all around the country every day.
In 2022 we will be introducing a new way to give clothing to people. We will be delivering a physical modular wardrobe with a capsule or clothing to women’s shelters and crisis accommodation centres around the country. In doing so, we will be able to provide immediate access to women and children that have escaped a domestic and abusive relationship with essential clothes on arrival (e.g. underwear, pjs, loungewear).

Q4. What has been the most exciting/triumphant moment during your time at Thread Together?

Being able to provide a small amount of dignity at someone's most difficult moment is a truly humbling and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, the opportunity to create these moments is only increasing as the frequency of major crises increases – the compounding impact of the pandemic, bushfires, floods, those seeking refuge from Afghanistan on top of the ever-growing daily need of those experiencing vulnerability across Australia cannot be understated.

Q5. What's the best way for brands to approach partnering with Thread Together?

Our website is a great place to start, and no clothing donation is too small – we would be happy to arrange to collect the donation as well.
Many brands partner with us beyond donating new clothing, for example, some brands bring their teams to volunteer at our fulfilment centre in our clothing hubs. Other brands lend us some talent (i.e. skilled volunteering) and quite a large number of brands support us with a small financial donation.
Head over to our website to learn more and get involved

Q6. What’s next for Thread Together? Any exciting developments or upcoming programs?

We are excited and optimistic for the year ahead and we are working on two new innovative solutions to keep clothing in circulation and clothe communities in need.
The first is the installation of modular wardrobes inside women’s refuges and crisis accommodation centres around the country. This ensures that we can meet the immediate need for new clothing when women and children arrive with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.
The second is several innovative collaborations with iconic Australian designers and partners which focuses on helping us to better manage product where supply currently exceeds demand with the mantra of keeping clothing in circulation at its highest value for as long as possible.
Finally, this is our tenth year, so we will be celebrating all our partners that have helped us to keep clothing in circulation and clothe communities in need.

The AFC are proud to partner with Thread Together to reduce landfill and give excess clothing a new life with people less fortunate. Visit our Thread Together Program page here to donate clothing or volunteer at Thread Together.

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