Erica Gadsby and Deborah de Graaf are two women on a mission. That mission is to change the fashion industry for the better with their label ReCreate, which produces boutique streetwear using a selection of premium certified organic fabrics, and transforms the lives of those producing it – marginalised people in Cambodia who receive full sewing training, fair employment and hope for a better future.
Gadsby and de Graaf were one of 12 category winners selected by a panel of judges as part of the Ceres Organics Good People Awards. Following this, we asked you, our readers, to vote over the course of four weeks, for the Flick Electric People’s Choice winner, who would take home the $5000 cash prize. Three thousand votes later, with more than 600 going to the duo, Gadsby and de Graaf came out on top. We asked the humble winners about what it means to have won, as well as their plans for the future and upcoming collections.
What does being voted the Flick Electric People’s Choice winners of the Ceres Organics Good People Awards mean to you?
It means so much! We feel like it makes a statement that New Zealanders are becoming more aware of the importance of ethical production and that everyone who voted is standing with us in wanting to make a difference in the fashion industry. Winning provides such an amazing opportunity for us to help raise awareness and continue the discussion that sustainable fashion is not only possible, but the way forward.
On a more personal level, this is simply a huge encouragement to us to continue in our work with ReCreate. It has definitely not been an easy journey. We love what we do, but at the same time there have been challenges. In the past year both of us have had new babies, so our meetings have often been over the phone while feeding the two boys, and the middle-of-the-night wakings have turned into the perfect timeslot for coming up with new ideas. We are inspired to see people becoming more and more socially aware – wanting to purchase knowing that people and the environment have been respected. Winning this award confirms what we are finding; that customers are not okay with exploitation and that they want to make decisions that make a positive difference in the world around them.
What will ReCreate do with the $5000 cash prize?
It comes at a perfect time as we are currently going through a stage of growth. We’re so excited to announce that this month we will be newly stocked in 18 beautiful stores around New Zealand – but this has also come with the challenge of producing much larger volumes of our boutique collections. In the past we have purchased only small runs of fabric, however we have now taken the next step of bulk ordering our gorgeous signature, certified organic cottons. So this prize will go a very long way towards ensuring we can continue growing and producing our range.
The money will also support the ongoing work at our ReCreate sewing centre in Dey Tmey, Cambodia. We greatly value each person in our team, so it is important for us to not only provide full sewing training, fair and safe employment, but also holistic care through things like school, health and maternity assistance, matched savings, plus reading and writing lessons. It will help us continue to empower and transform the lives of our team, their children and the wider community in Dey Tmey.
Aside from winning $5000, what has been the most positive thing to come out of being one of the 12 category winners of the Ceres Organics Good People Awards?
It has been a truly amazing platform to increase awareness of who we are and what we are doing. We are both typically “behind-the-camera” people (particularly with Deborah who is also our photographer), so being a category winner has really encouraged us to come forward with more of our story. We so appreciate the opportunity to not only share this story, but also to raise awareness about the ReCreate clothing range.
Every single person who makes the choice to buy an ethically made garment is directly benefiting and empowering the person who made it, so with the growth of ReCreate we feel that we
can make an even wider impact in the community where our clothing is made.
Can you tell us about your Spring Summer 2018 collection, the inspiration, fabrics used and why?
Our handcrafted Spring Summer 2018 collection has been ethically made in our Cambodia sewing centre using our signature GOTS certified organic cottons and features a new, lightweight, organic black denim made from 100 per cent Better Cotton Initiative fibres. Reflecting our values of the environment and organic fabric, the range highlights the juxtaposition of tropical hand screen prints with monochrome colours. We focus on well-designed pieces that can be styled-up for work or going out, but have the versatility to be worn in a more relaxed setting as well.
Why does ReCreate choose to work with organic fibres and what does it mean to you?
From day one it was an easy decision for us to use only organic fibres. Our focus at ReCreate is to respect people and the environment so we believe using ethical and organic fabric is an essential way to achieve this. Not only are the farmers that grew the cotton not exposed to dangerous chemicals, but the impact on soil and waterways is drastically reduced. From there, sustainability is prioritised right through to the weaving and dyeing of the cotton fibres. As many people are already aware, dyes used in fabric production can cause significant water pollution, so by using organic dye and sustainable manufacturing processes we are reducing impact and environmental harm wherever possible.
We are continually inspired by the story behind the garment, from the cotton plant right through to the wearer of the finished piece. With every single step in between, we focus on sustainable and ethical production with care for people and the environment. We are continually aiming to create a transformational impact through the production of each collection – and always keep our ReCreate tagline in the forefront of our minds… “Boutique Streetwear That Transforms Lives”