There’s the everyday way, and then there’s doing it your way.
And doing things her own way has definitely paid off for Jackie Ruddock, CEO of The Social Outfit.
The 37-year-old has carved her own path and achieved exactly what she set out to do: to make a difference in the world of fashion. And she recently chatted to Mamamia to tell us how she did it.
Prepare to be seriously inspired…
Tell us about The Social Outfit.
“The Social Outfit is an initiative that provides employment and training in clothing production, retail, design and marketing to people from refugee and new migrant backgrounds. Our Newtown shop-front sells clothes that are made on site by sewing technicians who work alongside sewing school students,” she says.
“It was so amazing to have celebrated our first birthday recently. Before that, it was about two and half years of planning work and fundraising. It’s taken the tireless work of many, many people to see The Social Outfit into fruition, so we’re really keen to keep working hard and building on our early highlights.”
Why was it your dream to open an ethical clothing store for refugees?
“I wanted to help build a sense of belonging for new migrants and refugees, and I truly believe that creativity and fashion can lead to learning and empowerment.”
Tell us about what it was like going after your dream.
“I’ve had so many highlights in this first year. It’s what makes me very excited about the years ahead and our want to continue working hard and celebrating the creative talents of the community,” she says.
“We’ve been able to employ three sewing technicians now and three new migrants in our retail store. For five of these people, The Social Outfit is their first paid job in Australia. And this is why we exist: to take the existing skills of the community and help provide opportunities for people to settle and feel like they are making a contribution in their new home. This is what excites me and motivates me every day.
“Carla Zampatti became our Ambassador in October 2014, and has donated us the most beautiful fabrics in support of our work. Other fashion labels like Dragstar and Seafolly, and also independent designers and local customers, have donated fabrics in support of our work. Really, the local community response has been amazing.”
According to Ruddock, it was important for her to find the right partners – she wanted to find an organisation that shared her own values and believed in her vision – and that’s where The ING DIRECT Dreamstarter program came in.
“The Social Outfit has had the growing pains typical of a young fashion business. The organisation has philanthropic support, but we were determined to grow our own self-generated income. This means selling more clothes and employing more refugees and new migrants. The ING DIRECT Dreamstarter program was an opportunity to build this capacity by raising funds and increasing awareness.”