“Forced to move”: Sydney fashion brand The Social Outfit turns to crowdfunding to secure its future

crowdfunding The Social Outfit

The Social Outfit will pay 40% more rent at its new location. Image: Harold David. Source: Supplied.

Ethical fashion brand The Social Outfit has raised more than $15,000 from crowdfunding to move into a new store after being told to vacate its current location in Newtown, Sydney.

The small social enterprise, which uses its retail business as a foundation for running community programs for refugees, is being kicked out of the store to make way for a redevelopment of the property.

Concerned for the future of the organisation, more than 100 community members have now chipped in to help the business move to a new location in Newtown.

The new store, located on nearby King Street, is larger and located in a higher traffic location, but the rent is a whopping 40% higher.

“The move hasn’t been by our choice,” Jackie Ruddock, founder and chief executive of The Social Outfit, explains in an interview with SmartCompany.

“Where we are it’s commercial rent all the way, landlords are interested in getting a return on their investment.”

A slew of small Sydney-based retailers have reported having trouble meeting steep rents in recent months, with many reporting continual rent increases have squeezed their businesses.

But community support appears set to see The Social Outfit through the storm, with more than three-quarters of its $20,000 fundraising target already raised through crowdfunding platform Chuffed, with eight days still to go.

“I’ve always loved your shop, with all that beautiful woodwork. I hope your new home is just as friendly and beautiful,” one customer commented on the Chuffed page.

“Looking forward to visiting your new home. I think it is going to be wonderful,” another said.

Donations have ranged from $25 to as much as $1000, with the Merchant Pricing Hub and the Robertson Foundation among others stepping in to match donations up to $20,000.

Ruddock says she’s been blown away by the support.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” she says.

“People are interested and can see how a contribution can really help the future of organisations like us.”

The Social Outfit sells a range of inhouse designed apparel from its store and e-commerce website, but also runs a range of community programs designed to upskill migrants and refugees.

Of the 18 people the business employees, 15 are working their first job in Australia, while more than 200 refugee and migrant women have participated in the organisation’s specialised sewing programs.

Programs are also run to help migrant and refugee women develop skills for their own micro enterprises.

“Fashion is creative and fun, you don’t need to have English language speaking skills,” Ruddock says.

Ruddock says the new larger location will help the business expand, with multiple floors for customers to browse goods and participate in community projects.

“We’ve needed to think about the move as an opportunity for a growing social enterprise to take the front foot,” Ruddock explains.

“When this stuff happens you have to move incredibly quickly.”

The new store is currently under construction and is expected to be opened in October, around the same time the old store is vacated.

NOW READ: “Nobody can do it”: Small retailers say they can’t make high Sydney rents work, as landlords show no mercy

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