Standing in solidarity against Covid19

We’ve always been big advocates of upcycling, especially when it comes to fashion. Our core values revolve around being on the right side of fashion by being environmentally friendly and socially responsible in our approach. And driven by our dream to create a greener world, we carried out our first project “Make Masks, Save Lives‘ to fight the Covid19 pandemic by upcycling fashion.

 

We had neither resources nor any support yet we managed to touch people’s hearts across continents through our solidarity initiative and this is our story!

So, talking about the fashion industry, is there a pivot towards sustainability, or is it just a marketing hoax? 

Well, you may argue one way that fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet, sustainability is nothing but greenwashing tactics used by marketing experts and the industry lacks substance. Yet contradictorily you may also argue that there is a new awakening and the industry is changing for good. From conscious consumers to Fashion Revolution’sWho made my clothes” and from Fashion Tech Labs’ innovative startups to Kering’s EPL measure of success, the industry actors are taking a stand for good. However, we at Fix That Shirt, argue neither way!

Our take on Covid19 through upcycling:

We believe that ideas don’t change the world, but acting on those ideas does! Hence we decided to use our time during the lockdown by up-cycling our fashion wardrobes and textiles at hand to make free masks for people who can’t afford to pay for those. And to say that it wasn’t an easy task would be an understatement!

What is fashion upcycling
One of the first few masks made by Fix That Shirt by upcycling an old cotton shirt

We were running without many resources, had absolutely no incentive in making masks, the French government was communicating that “masks are not useful”, and having no sewing machine did not make the task easier. Nonetheless, we had the vision, commitment, and drive to do it.

how we fought covid 19
Upcycling a donated cotton shirt to make masks for those in need
how we fought Covid 19 by upcycling
Of course the sewing machine breaks down when you need it the most

How we fought Covid19 through upcycling:

So on April 2nd, 2020, using an old cotton shirt, a pair of kitchen scissors, and some paper clips, we made our prototype. Soon a friend lent his mother’s sewing machine and another volunteered her time to help with the masks and yet another offered help with the French translations. That’s how fixthatshirt.com was born.

Our Launch Project, “Make Masks, Save Lives” offered people an online platform where they could join in solidarity and volunteer to make masks for those in need and conversely, people without means to buy a mask could send us a request for masks from anywhere across France and we send our masks to their homes for free. 

Masks ready to be stiched at Fix That Shirt - Paris
standing in solidarity against covid 19
Stiched masks ready to be donated
standing in solidarity against covid 19
Sending the masks across France

The philosophy of solidarity and the challenges that came along:

Now one may wonder why did we do it for free? Well, the shortage of masks in the market was no secret to anyone. So while some chose to monetize this ‘opportunity’, we found it morally inappropriate to make money during a pandemic. Moreover, we asked ourselves a simple question: Should health and safety be privileges or basic human rights? And we chose the latter by making our masks free! Yet it didn’t come without its challenges. 

Indeed, the first few requests for free masks received on Fix That Shirt were from imposters and scammers. They were pretending to be hospital workers to get free masks from us and then sell those. Also, reaching out to French people, while speaking in broken French with foreign accents was not an easy task. Yet, we did not give in and soon enough Dan Pontarlier, a social media influencer and an advocate of sustainable lifestyle himself, came out in our support

how to fight Covid 19 by upcycling
Kinga Callebat wearing a mask made by Fix That Shirt
how to fight Covid 19 by upcycling
Marie Bigenwald Capot, our early recipient of masks
how to fight Covid 19 by upcycling
Our masks reaching the french countryside

So, how did our “Make Masks Save Lives” story grow? 

We had initially planned to make 1000 free masks for people in France during April 2020. But then requests for our masks kept growing and we decided to make 1000 more upcycled masks for donation. However, after having cut 6 bedsheets, 14 shirts, and some fabric scraps, we were out of materials. So we started a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule to invest in purchasing and sourcing recycled materials for the next 1000 masks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t succeed, yet we didn’t let it discourage us and it was the constant love from people that we received which kept us going. And guess what, instead of 1000 more masks, which we initially wanted to make, we ended up making 1700 more masks all adding up to the 2700 free masks that we donated across France.

Standing in solidarity against Covid19 across continents:

However, our fight against Covid19 didn’t end here. We decided to extend the initiative to India, especially to help the migrant workers who were walking hundreds of kilometers amidst the pandemic just to reach their home with no money, no food, and no masks. Despite a noble aim in our hearts, we are based in France, and the migrant helpers were in India, at a time when both countries were still under lockdown. The extension of this project in India wasn’t an easy task. After avoiding a fair amount of scammers, imposters, and conflict of interests, we came across Mahashakti Seva Kendra ( MSK) which is an all-women NGO founded by Indira Iyengar in 1994 in Bhopal, India. 

Indira Iyengar shares her lineage with the French royal family of the Bourbons and she is well-known for her humanitarian endeavors including working very actively with Mother Theresa. 

When we contacted them, they had already distributed 15000 masks to the people in need. We offered them a helping hand to distribute more upcycled, handmade masks. To produce these masks locally, we reached out to some students of a reputed design school, NIFT, in India and in under a week, we were able to send masks to MSK by India post.

how to fight Covid 19 by upcycling
Sakshi Nimje, student volunteer from India, making masks to be donated to MSK for Migrant workers
how to fight covid19 through upcycling
Masks completely stiched by hand by our student volunteer Oas Rajvenshi to be donated to MSK
how to fight Covid 19 by upcycling
Teertha Mishra, student volunteer from India, making masks to be donated to MSK for Migrant workers

Winning the fight against Covid19 in India

On 15th June 2020, Pooja Iyengar, daughter of Indira Iyengar, wrote to us thanking and telling that for 20 days Pooja & her team have been standing on state highways and have been distributing dry ration kits, water, shoes, and masks to thousands of migrant workers and our masks came as a very welcomed help.

how to fight covid19 through upcycling
how MSK fought covid19 through upcycling
how msk fought 19 by upcycling

On the other hand, we enjoyed engaging with the talented fashion students of NIFT Bhopal through our online sessions where we educated them about sustainable fashion and trained them on how to make an upcycled mask. NIFT as an institute didn’t participate in this initiative, yet the passion and determination of these young students show that there’s still hope for a sustainable future of fashion. 

Finally, after 2 months of making and donating upcycled masks in France and India, today we (Fix That Shirt) officially announce the end of the ´Make Masks, Save Lives’ project. We extend our gratitude to our team of volunteers in India and France for their constant trust and support without which this project would have not materialized.

Meet the volunteers behind, Make Masks, Save Lives project.

A big reason to end the project is that the emergency is over, there isn’t a shortage of masks anymore, yet if you’re still looking for upcycled masks, check out our step by step tutorial on our blog. Try to upcycle, it’s not just morally good but also great for the environment and a super cool way to calm your mind. Create value, not stuff!

And if you’re still wondering, who we (Fix That Shirt) are then let me conclude by telling you precisely that. We are not a brand, as a matter of fact, we’re pretty much a nobody of the fashion industry. We are just a diverse bunch of fashion students, some unemployed APS holders and a few young executives who share a common passion to not to let the world burn down to pieces. And to quote Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see”, we at Fix That Shirt, have started to work towards the world we hope for the future.

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