QUEENS, New York — MONO Handmade is a fashion company created with the aim of addressing the impacts of fast fashion through upcycling and repurposing fabrics. The company also places poverty reduction at the forefront of its efforts. In an interview with The Borgen Project, the founder of MONO Handmade, Mima Osawa, said that “Growing up in the countryside of Aotearoa, New Zealand, I was ingrained with a deep respect for my natural surroundings from a young age.” This conscious company is deeply rooted in making a positive impact not only by creating sustainable fashion but also by helping eliminate avoidable blindness in impoverished individuals facing major eye health-related diseases. Here is some information about how MONO Handmade reduces poverty and textile waste.
How the Changes Began
As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once stated, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Osawa wanted to make a difference in the fashion industry, and after visiting her grandmother’s hometown, she knew that she had to take matters into her own hands if she wanted to see a visible impact. She visited a local textile warehouse where she had an eye-opening moment when discovering “a mounting pile of fabric waste.” Fabric waste is an environmental issue across the world, with global citizens discarding 17 million tons of textile waste in landfills in 2018. It can take as many as 200 years for textiles to decompose in landfills.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Many times, companies and individuals can recycle these mounting piles of fabric waste into items that one can reuse, repurpose or resell. Osawa says, “On closer inspection, I realized that all of these were beautiful, high-quality fabrics, just sitting there collecting dust” — all dead stock materials other larger producers in the fashion industry dump, which later end up in landfills.
MONO Handmade’s Mission
As Osawa became more intrigued and educated on the “unethical practices common in the fast fashion industry,” she established MONO Handmade. MONO Handmade has three main missions:
- “To upcycle deadstock fabrics for all our garments to prevent further landfill waste.”
- “To source sustainable fabrics from renewable resources and with the lowest environmental impact.”
- “To handpick materials based on their quality to undertake a slow fashion approach.”
Reduction of Poverty
MONO Handmade’s mission also ties in with reducing poverty. The company recently launched a collection of hats where MONO Handmade will donate 50% of the profit to The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ “to help eliminate avoidable blindness in impoverished populations around the Pacific.”
Dr. Ana Cama, Pacific coordinator of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness said to Radio New Zealand in 2014 that “80[%] of vision loss in the region is caused by the three preventable conditions: cataracts, refractive errors and diabetic retinopathy.”
Osawa said that “Millions of people around the world are blind simply because of the lack of health care for eye-related diseases, especially in developing countries.” The company highlights that “four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be,” meaning medical treatment can correct these eye conditions.
Osawa further said that these conditions significantly affect disadvantaged and vulnerable communities “because there’s a strong link between eye health, poverty and education.” Since many cases of blindness in developing countries are avoidable and loss of vision deepens poverty, it is essential for the international community to prioritize efforts to safeguard eyesight.
MONO Handmade Reduces Poverty by Supporting The Fred Hollows Foundation
The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ is one of the most impactful foundations for preventable blindness in New Zealand, which is why MONO Handmade specifically chose to donate a portion of its profits to the foundation. Osawa said that, “At Fred Hollows, [the staff]help to strengthen public health systems by working closely with local hospitals and medical centers. This means training enough local eye specialists and transferring the efficient medical system to the [developing world].” Using this method, The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ is able to “build a sustainable and long-term health solution, rather than having to travel long distances and at great cost to deliver private eye care each time.”
The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ has already made a major impact in New Zealand as it has provided more than 1 million eye health consultations and more than 81,000 surgeries through its seven eye clinics.
Blindness and Poverty
Osawa explained that “Blindness increases the likelihood of poverty since eye-related issues also affect people’s abilities to complete daily tasks, which can cause even more financial insecurity and social isolation.” Realizing that blindness causes poverty, MONO Handmade developed a strong desire to help resolve this issue.
“And so, we launched our hat collection and are currently working on selling as many [as we can]to raise donation funds [for]The Fred Hollows Foundation. It’s a win-win situation, the more hats we make, the more dead stock fabrics we upcycle all while helping those who [suffer visual impairment],” Osawa said. In working with The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, MONO Handmade’s main aim is to “support a campaign that helps those in developing countries” while MONO Handmade itself commits to a sustainable production process.
Overall, MONO Handmade addresses the impacts of fast fashion while prioritizing sustainability and helping people living in poverty. Through its support of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, MONO Handmade reduces poverty and shows that the commitments of companies can extend further than fashion through endeavors that seek to address the most pressing global issues affecting the most vulnerable communities.
– Christina Papas