Vintage for a Cause: women for the environment

Created by a woman, with the help of women, for women. Vintage for a Cause is more than just a clothing brand. It is a circular economy project, because it uses textile surplus to create new garments, and has a positive social impact, by reintegrating unemployed women over 50 years old in the labour market.

Helena Antónia is the mind and soul behind the brand. Being a seamstress’ daughter, she spent her childhood witnessing how her mother created and transformed clothes and fabrics, at a time when mending clothes was a part of everyday life. Growing up seeing how clothes were reimagined, recreated, and repaired, gave her a unique, more attentive perspective of fashion.

A close relationship with her grandparents made Helena Antónia more aware of the social isolation felt by the elderly, especially women. These experiences would be the seeds for this project.

3 in 1: entrepreneurship, sustainability, and inclusion

Vintage for a Cause was born in 2013. The first goal of the project, and the one that motivated its creation, was to reduce fashion’s ecological footprint. The fashion industry is dominated by fast fashion (an expression that designates mass production, short-term use and immediate disposal of clothing), generating millions of tonnes of textile waste and textile-derived residues per year.

The second goal of Vintage for a Cause was more of a social nature. It became a way to combat both the unemployment and the isolation of women above 50 years of age, to promote active ageing, and to encourage female entrepreneurship.

Surplus gets a new vintage makeover

Around 87% of raw materials used to produce clothing end up in landfills or incinerators after being discarded. Only around 12% of all recycled clothing is reused to produce inferior quality fibres used for stuffing and insulation, and a meagre 1% is reused in the fashion industry.

All the fabric used to make Vintage for a Cause clothes is provided by partner textile companies. It is the surplus of other collections – also known as deadstock – which isn’t useful for its original purpose. This fabric is reused and transformed in limited edition clothing collections with a vintage design, which will then be sold online. The garments created from this fabric are unique, accessible, ethical and high quality.

Age is just a number

All Vintage for a Cause pieces are handmade, mostly by 50+ year-old seamstresses. The goal is to enable and empower unemployed women, who have talent and experience in tailoring. Why? Helena Antónia knows these women are versed in sewing, tailoring and transforming clothes. And such mastery needs to be preserved.

The project also makes a difference in active ageing. Data from 2022 show that, in Portugal, around 4.7% of women between 45 and 54 years old were unemployed, while unemployment affected only 3.2% of men in the same age group.

To recruit master seamstresses, Vintage for a Cause organises social inclusion programmes and workshops, in partnership with municipalities and local organisations, consisting of clothing upcycling sessions and sewing workshops. The participants are the creators and models of their clothes, having the possibility, in a second phase, to join the project as volunteer mentors or as seamstresses of the brand.

A project with an impact

Vintage for A Cause reused around 3.5 tonnes of textile waste, which corresponds to an estimated saving of almost 16 million litres of water and 40 tonnes of CO2 – all this between 2019 and 2022 alone.

If you want to support this very special project, you are welcome to make a donation to Vintage for a Cause, or, of course, to gift a loved one with a sustainable – and exclusive – piece of clothing. If you want to renew your wardrobe without harming the environment, this is an excellent alternative. The Vintage for a Cause online shop is a space where you can find basic, lasting and fun pieces. If you have a knack for arts and crafts, try the DIY kits.