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The Social Studio

Melbourne correspondent, Collette Swindells, introduces us to a group using design to create social change.

The Social Studio


October 6th, 2009

Having worked for several years for a non-profit organisation Lentil as Anything, Melbourne artist Grace McQuilten was tired of seeing her efforts to train and provide employment for refugees and migrants workers go nowhere.

Looking for a way of providing ongoing opportunities for workers, she returned to her research background, and began thinking again about artists who used design to create social change.

“It occurred to me that rather than trying to change this group of people to suit mainstream employers, it would be better to create a business that is actually designed around their skills, their culture, their talent and their creativity, and give them an opportunity to express that.”

Grace finally came up with a plan to grow the passion for fashion of the young community, by setting up a vibrant shop-front on Smith Street in Collingwood.

“We are training them up in all the skills they need, and we have been reworking garments from industry…adjusting them as a way of building up skills before we develop our first range,” she says.

When their first range is launched in November, a rear café and courtyard space will also be fully functional, and mobile shopping carts, (the first of which will be launched at Federation Square in December) will begin to sell their unique goods at key street locations.

Grace hopes that the success of her idea will encourage other industries to think differently about employing the refugee and migrant community, providing further opportunities for change.




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