IF you cleared out your closet or did some spring cleaning Marie Kondo-style recently, why not donate your unused clothing and old linen to a worthy cause.
Kain Movement is a social enterprise set up to empower B40 women to earn a side income by upcycling used fabric into new, everyday items.
The social enterprise was founded by five Malaysians who mooted the idea during the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) 2019, a programme that brought Malaysian university students together to tackle social issues in Malaysia.
Kain Movement comprises Amiruddin Ismail, 26, Janice Chai, 20, Benjemen Wong, 23, Paul Birly, 22, and Ng Yee Luan, 23.
Each handles different aspects of the project, based on their strengths and interests. Amiruddin oversees partnerships, Chai marketing, Wong finance, Birly production and Ng operations.
On why they decided to take the project beyond the 12-week YLA programme, Amiruddin said: “We wanted to make Kain Movement more long-term and sustainable.
“There were women interested in the project, so we wanted to see it through so that they would benefit from it.”
Working with partners
Chai said Kain Movement worked with several partners to implement the project with the tag line “Uplifting by Upcycling”.
Kloth Cares assists with the placement of collection bins and collection services, while Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah’s office worked with community leaders to identify five participants from the B40 community in Desa Mentari which is in Maria’s constituency.
Sew x Dignity, a unit under the Dignity for Children Foundation, trains the women on how to upcycle used fabric by sewing bags and other items.
“The women are stay-at-home mothers who are keen to earn additional income.
“We interviewed them to ensure they were interested in the project and had some basic sewing skills, ” said Amiruddin.
The women create the upcycled products at home. The team visits from time to time to check on the quality of the products.
Chai said the type of products would depend on the materials they get.
“So far, our sources include fabric bundles from a cloth manufacturer and excess lab coat fabrics, ” she said, adding that almost 200kg of fabric was collected over two months.
“Based on market research, we decided to focus on creating tote bags as these are quite popular.”
Amiruddin said there was potential to expand the range of products to other items such as pouches, laptop sleeves and phone cases.
“We have just moved to the production stage and are working with Sew x Dignity on other types of products the women can make.
“We are looking at having a Christmas collection so people can buy the upcycled products as gifts.”
On how the products would be sold, Chai said it would be done through Kain Movement’s digital platforms and pop-up booths.
“We are also looking into working with hotels and corporations to order them as corporate gifts, as many are moving into the sustainability concept and want to give or use items like this.
“For example, we could partner with a hotel to turn their room linen into bed throws, pouches or laundry bags.”
Chai said the co-founders were also working on securing more funding for Kain Movement and expanding the project to other constituencies if there is demand.
Amiruddin shared that Kain Movement would be run as a profit-sharing initiative, with some of the profits going to the women while the rest would be used for operational expenses.
“We want to help empower the B40 women whom we call Kain talents to improve their income, ” he said.
Kain Movement emerged as overall first runners-up and social media award winner at YLA 2019. The project also finished among the top 10 at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) University Startup Challenge 2019 and was selected to represent Malaysia at the Asean Impact Challenge 2019 held in Thailand for StartImpact category.
Uplifting B40 women
For the Kain talents, it has enabled them to supplement their income and hone their sewing skills.“We found out about Kain Movement through one of our community leaders, ” said Zaitun Samdin who has five children aged between seven and 23.
“I enjoy sewing and was looking for something to occupy my time and get additional income.
“I have a sewing machine at home that I use to sew simple clothes or do minor repairs, so I welcomed the opportunity to expand my skills, ” said the 46-year-old.
For Norzilah Abdul Rahman, being a part of Kain Movement has allowed her to improve her sewing skills, something that had taken a backseat when she started a family.
“I previously took up courses to sew baju kurung, baju Melayu and other clothing. But I didn’t really have time to practise once my children came along, ” said the mother of four aged between six and 22.
“I get to learn new skills and supplement my income. I can also work around my children’s schedules and daily chores, ” said Ila, as she is known among friends. She also runs a home-based business selling kuih.
“I hope to attend more sewing workshops to expand my skills and make more items, ” she added.
Zaitun said making a tote bag was relatively easy.
“I can make about 15 bags a week as the materials are already cut in the exact size, so I just need to sew them into bags.
Zaitun said she was saving the money she received from the project for her children’s school expenses next year.
“I will need to spend between RM3,000 and RM4,000 for my four children, which is why I need to start saving a year ahead, ” said Zaitun, whose husband works as a lorry driver.
Similarly, Ila needs to set aside RM1,000 for her two school going children.
“My husband does odd jobs, so his income is not certain. The income I get from my kuih business is not guaranteed as I cannot cook if I’m unwell.”
Zaitun and Ila said Kain Movement’s co-founders were like their own children.
“They are very friendly and look out for our welfare. Paul, who supervises our work, is quite flexible.”
Zaitun said the Kain talents were willing to take on more work, provided they were informed ahead of time.
Maria commended Kain Movement for being a sustainable effort that provides employment and protects the environment at the same time.
“The project offers a good option for women who want to support their family and generate an income without having to be away from home, ” she said during an event to place a Kain Movement fabric collection bin at her office.
“We want to encourage the women to be independent and not rely on government handouts.”
Maria added that there was potential for the project to be expanded to other areas in her constituency where there were pockets of poverty such as Taman Medan, Lembah Subang and Petaling Utama.
“Kloth Cares is keen on working with Kain Movement as the project gives new life and brings value to previously unwanted or unused items, ” said Kloth Cares co-founder Nik Suzila Nik Hassan.
“We also want to focus on youths who are major consumers of fast fashion clothing that contribute towards pollution, waste and other negative environmental impacts.”
It aims to address textile waste with its Kloth Cares 188 Fabric Recycling Campaign.
Nik Suzila said the decomposition process of textile waste released methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that is a significant contributor to global warming.
Dyes and chemicals present in fabrics and other clothing components can leach into the soil and contaminate rivers and other water sources.
“Kloth Cares accepts both wearable and non-wearable items, including bags, shoes and children’s toys that are clean and in usable condition, ” said Nik Suzila.
“We work with Life Line Clothing Malaysia to sort the items. Depending on the condition, they are sold as secondhand goods, turned into industrial cleaning cloths or used as biofuel.”
The public can drop off items for Kain Movement inside the Kloth Cares bin at Pusat Khidmat P.105 Petaling Jaya, No 18, Jalan Changgai 6/22, Section 6, Petaling Jaya.
Kain Movement also welcomes bulk contributions of unused linen or fabric rolls.
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