For entrepreneur Lauren Bonnet, it was a deep frustration with the fast-fashion industry that motivated her to create a not-for-profit ethical fashion social enterprise, From Found, in Adelaide, Australia. She was fed up with fast fashion’s negative impact on supply-chain employees — not to mention the industry’s harmful effects on the environment. So she crowdfunded $42,000 to start her business, which today employs women from refugee backgrounds to create sustainable and unique clothing.
Bonnet’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
I started From Found with a group of women from varying backgrounds (like social work, marketing and fashion), to give female refugees the opportunity to work in Australia, build language skills and gain wider community connections — all while using a skill many brought with them: sewing. Our dual mission, to empower women while simultaneously providing an ethical and sustainable fashion alternative, makes us a force to be reckoned with.
Our strength lies in the many volunteers who contribute their skills and passions to all facets of our business, from production to sales. If we could use a picture to describe success, we would draw a big group of women hailing from different backgrounds, from different shapes, sizes, ages and colors, all linking arms and connected to one another. To us, success is linked intrinsically to the ability of others to achieve their goals, dreams and desires.
From Found wants to see women who are dealt some of the hardest cards in life be able to thrive in their new communities. This picture of success also demonstrates our belief that we can change the systems that have led to the creation of the giant fast-fashion industry. As a group, we can collectively choose to change spending habits and lobby brands and governments for change. We see our customers’ choice to buy our clothing as an extension of this success, a very important extension.
“To us, success is linked intrinsically to the ability of others to achieve their goals, dreams and desires.”
—Lauren Bonnet, Founder of From Found
After just six months of research and development for the concept of From Found, we were able to raise $42,000 through crowdfunding to kickstart our idea. We had over 200 people invest and add their voice to say they, too, wanted to see empowerment and environmental sustainability meet as a force for good. Since recruiting our first employees, four women from four different countries, we have worked with over 50 volunteers to design and produce our first clothing collection and market, promote and launch ourselves to the public.
Our greatest challenge is operating in the ethical fashion market sphere. It’s tough to compete against firm cultural beliefs and addictions to cheap, low quality, high- paced fashion, which has been provided since the 1980s by huge multinational clothing companies. We address this each day by using our platform to advocate for slow, ethical and sustainable fashion, while highlighting the destruction and degradation that current spending habits have on the plant and its poorest people. We chip away at it everyday.
Our greatest roles models are the female change-makers who impact their families, communities and the world each day through their various works. We could name some, but really, everyone knows the women we are talking about — they work in homes, in offices, outdoors and in governments. We are also inspired by other enterprises that have chosen to do business for good, those who have used a simple everyday item to encourage small changes (such as Who Gives a Crap with toilet paper), or those whose work is aimed at achieving far-reaching impacts in areas of renewable energy, water and sanitation.
Our business is steadily growing and our passion to continue to grow our reach is only getting stronger.