It's our last interview and this week we're speaking to Ainsley Reed from Project SoCo. The Project SoCo journey began when Ainsley decided to explore the world. Through many travel adventures around the globe, she was inspired by locals who had very little, yet gave so much.
From the Himalayas to the Amazon and everything in-between, Ainsley constantly felt the need to help people living in poverty, as one-off donations were just a temporary fix. The idea to have a for-profit business to help sustain not-for-profits seemed to make sense, and one that kept calling her every place she visited. Before Ainsley's trips, she always struggled to find the perfect tee. She wanted versatility, quality material and to know her money wasn't supporting the exploitation of others in the sweatshop industry...not an easy find!
This is how Project SoCo was born. Project SoCo tees are socially and fashionably conscious - they mix classic style with modern thinking to bring you tees that stand above the rest. Every Project SoCo tee is created from combed organic cotton, is ethically produced, environmentally friendly and donates to a not-for-profit, registered organisation from every sale.
Who is Ainsley Reed?
My name is Ainsley and I am the founder and owner of Project SoCo. I currently live between Australia and Bali with my partner, Sam, and our rescue cat, Squeak. I am an organic tea lover and enjoy reading, yoga, meditation, surfing and of course travelling the world. Getting lost in the culture, cuisine and natural beauty of a new country fascinates me. I am really inspired by the quote ‘travel is the only thing that makes your richer’ and I live by this.
What was your inspiration behind Project SoCo?
I have always felt the need to do something meaningful and have volunteered in a number of countries with each experience inspiring me more and more. These experiences have all been unique and it has always been in the back of my mind to start something that gives back. It wasn’t until I came across the organisationMySmallHelp (MSH) in Peru that pushed me to return to Australia and start Project SoCo. Witnessing MSH’s work while I travelled throughout Peru really inspired me, it was the light bulb moment I had been waiting for and it felt right to help in anyway I could.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Gao
How do you start designing your collection?
I am currently in the process of designing a new range of tees and I base them on what I love and what I think suits today’s modern woman. As our tees are inspired by travel, I want them to be versatile, stylish and above all, comfortable. The medium to loose fit design makes women of all shapes and sizes look and feel great and being versatile means that the tees are suitable for all occasion and activities. They are made from either 100% certified organic combed cotton or blended with 50% TENCEL lyocell, so they are durable and amazing for the skin being void from any harmful chemicals and pesticides. They are designed as a classic fit that will remain stylish for years to come.
What is your favourite Project SoCo Tee And why?
I love each unique style for a number of reasons, but overall I would have to say the SoCo Soul Tee. I am in love with this little number because of the design and fit. It covers the shoulders but doesn’t have your classic sleeves so it’s a tee I can dress up or down. I also love that I can wear it over leggings, tuck it in or tie it up with a pair of high-waited jeans or a skirt.
Photo credit: Christopher Robert
Does your work have an environmental agenda? Tell us about it.
Of course, I have always been a lover of the natural environment and the older I get, the more I am aware of the impact I am having. The tees are made from certified organic combed cotton and TENCEL lyocell, being free from toxic chemicals and pesticides. Not only is this good for the skin, but its better for the environment and the cotton farmers. When chemicals are used to grow conventional cotton, the health of the workers and their families are instantly put at risk as well as the environmental damage it causes from air pollution and the run off into waterways and other crops.
The region where the certified organic cotton is grown uses 95% of its water from monsoon rainfall and the factory that spins the yarn through to finishing the garments uses thirty dedicated wind turbines to provide the primary energy source.
Also, Project SoCo’s business cards and tags are made from recycled paper and printed with vegetable ink.
Photo Credit: Christopher Robert
How do you contribute to the sustainable, slow fashion industry?
Fast fashions sees trends come and go so quickly that most people wear their clothes for a minority of its lifespan before throwing them out. T shirts have really stood the test of time and being a fashion staple, I wanted to keep the front of tees plain so people could wear them as many times as they wanted without getting sick of the design. Project SoCo only sells t-shirts in black, white, grey and charcoal; the neutral tones eliminate the need for people to consume excessively/beyond their means. This design is two fold: to save our customers money and to assist in reducing unwanted clothing ending up in landfill.
Project SoCo tees are all about producing classic basics ethically. We really believe that the people making the tees are just as important as the people wearing them. No one needs to be exploited in the fashion industry, yet it is happening to millions of people daily. Project SoCo is about raising awareness of these issues as well as supporting ethical production and manufacturing processes.
We also believe in giving back to others that are less fortunate, so every tee sold donates to MySmallHelp Peruwho is focused on sustainable causes. They are passionate and dedicated to supporting people living in poverty or with a disability, gain access to education, health care and skills training.
We want our customers to think about their actions, believe in the change and empower others with their apparel choices. When you purchase from Project SoCo, you are supporting ethical production, environmentally friendly manufacturing and helping someone to break the cycle of poverty via sustainable means. It’s an item of clothing that you can feel good about wearing and we hope to inspire change so our customers continue to make socially conscious decisions in the future.
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
I believe sustainable fashion encompasses a range of important factors. At Project SoCo we have a major focus on ethical production, environmental protection and helping to empower people through education and skills training. It is so much more than just an item of clothing. It’s having the knowledge that what you are purchasing betters the lives of others without damaging the environment.
Sustainability also encompasses: locally produced items, fair trade practices, women’s empowerment, craft and skills preservation and the welfare of animals. Purchasing from opportunity/thrift shops is another great way to recycle clothing eventually destine for landfill.
What would you say to customers who think sustainable, ethically made clothes are unfashionable?
We live in a society where creativity can thrive and by believing the misconception that sustainable and ethical clothes are unfashionable, screams a dated mind-set.