What is The Social Studio?

The Social Studio is a fashion school, a clothing label, a retail shop, a digital textile print studio, a clothing manufacturer and a community space created from the style and skills of young people from new migrant and refugee communities.

We are a social enterprise that champions the values of diversity, community, education, environmentally sustainable design and ethical business practices.

We facilitate a range of projects that provide social support including legal advice, counselling, tutoring, driving and formal training in clothing production, retail and fashion.

We encourage community engagement through our regular public workshops, talks and events. This unique enterprise develops work and life skills in a highly motivating context and encourages young people to follow their aspirations.

How did The Social Studio start?

In 2009 a group of community members and local designers and professionals came together in Melbourne with the great idea of using up-cycled fashion as a vehicle for social change. With a lot of community consultation, they developed a business plan and went about the task of raising support. In July 2009 they secured a lease on a small shop-front in Smith Street, and in August training at the Studio commenced. In November, the shop opened and the whole project was launched at Federation Square in December.

Can I study/work at The Social Studio?

The Social Studio empowers young people from refugee backgrounds to achieve their dreams through social enterprise. The main barriers faced by newly arrived members of the community are unemployment, isolation and difficulties accessing education and training. The Social Studio addresses these problems in four ways: creating jobs; providing education; encouraging community engagement and social inclusion.

How do students and staff find out about The Social Studio?

There is no other organisation like The Social Studio, so word of mouth spreads quickly! Many students and staff have been referred to us by case workers, social workers and large settlement services like the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the Department of Human Services Refugee Minor Program and migrant resource centres. We also have a wide community network, and our Board includes community leaders from new and emerging migrant communities.

What is social enterprise? Is it non-profit or commercial?

The Social Studio is a safe place of belonging that strives to create awareness and change public perceptions for people who have experienced being a refugee.

We operate as a non-profit Incorporated Association, which is managed by a Board of Management elected by the membership. At the moment, our Board is composed of design and business professionals, media and communications experts, community development workers and young leaders from refugee communities in Melbourne.

All income generated through the Studio is invested in creating social benefits for our students, staff and their communities. We measure this through education outcomes, employment outcomes, environmental benefits and social inclusion. We believe there is a growing entrepreneurial spirit in community development. Along with participating in forums workshops and events that support the social enterprise sector, we have been mentoring other creative enterprises including The Social Outfit (Sydney), Twich Women’s Sewing Cooperative (Dandenong), No Sweat Fashions (Canberra) and The Global Studio (La Trobe Valley), among others.

What has happened to The Social Studio’s hospitality business, The Cutting Table café?

As of March 2018 The Cutting Table café has closed. We would like to thank all of our staff, volunteers, customers and supporters of The Cutting Table for seven wonderful years. The Social Studio looks forward to focussing on our social impact and our fashion businesses across the coming years.

How would you describe the fashion?

TSS label is designed and made at our Studio to an extremely high quality using hand dying and finishing techniques. All garments are ethically made using only reclaimed and up-cycled materials gathered from local industry. This is certified by Ethical Clothing Australia. Each collection is a collaboration; between all the new and emerging designers at the Studio bringing together an array of talents, styles and cultural influences to create vibrant and contemporary collections bi-annually.

Does The Social Studio offer manufacturing services for other designers?

Yes, our production team create high quality ethically made garments and accessories for our own collection as well as other local designers and corporate clients. If you are interested please talk to us about your manufacturing requirements.

What is The Printing Studio?

The Printing Studio is a subset of The Social Studio, and launched in 2012. It operates as a small business, the profits of which go towards tuition and other expenses for running a textile design education program. The enterprise is available for any clients looking to have a highlight print for a fashion label, for craftsman including digital prints in their works, for students for sampling prints, and any other apparel and accessory use. We also utilise the printer for the in-house collections for The Social Studio.

The Printing Studio uses direct digital textile printing technology, which is a modern print system using a large inkjet printer. The benefits of digital textile printing are both environmental and sustainable; it allows for unlimited colour, for flexible printing runs, and no specific repeat size is required. There is minimal fabric waste, as printed fabric amounts are controlled. Local printing production reduces delivery and shipping strains. Digitally printing allows for more creativity with imagery, as it can print fine detail and with photographic results.

The Printing Studio offers printing onto pure silk, for fashion outcomes.

How does The Social Studio’s education and training work?

The Social Studio encourages learning and training in all aspects of its operation, including informal ESL and numeracy coaching and mentoring alongside paid traineeships, industry work experience, apprenticeships and formal training at The Social Studio design school, a partnership with RMIT School of Fashion. We now have over 50 students and staff participating in these training programs, and 70+ have graduated in Certificate II and III in Clothing Production, Retail and Hospitality.

Do you help people get jobs?

Yes, we have referral pathways into employment in the fashion and retail industries. Approximately 25+ people have now obtained full time work outside of the Studio, in the areas of clothing manufacturing (with Ethical Clothing Australia accredited labels), retail and hospitality, and as a direct result of their involvement with the Studio. Another 40+ have obtained work at The Social Studio.

Does The Social Studio need funding and donations?

The educational programs and the social support programs we offer require funding and financial support.

The enterprise aspects of the Studio – the retail shop, digital print studio, clothing label and manufacturing – generate revenue to support employment opportunities for graduates of our training programs.

Donations and funding enable us to provide:

1. The Social Studio School

Our Certificate III & IV training in clothing production and design in partnership with RMIT School of Fashion, is offered free of charge and provides a supportive and flexible learning environment for students who have struggled in mainstream schooling. The School does not generate revenue for the business, and requires funding to cover the costs of teaching staff, enrollment fees, materials and overheads such as insurance, rent and utilities.

2. Paid traineeships in retail and fashion

Our paid traineeships in retail and fashion offer young people a combination of income, work experience and formally recognised Certificate training which gives them a stepping stone to employment in the wider world. These positions are integral to the operation of our enterprise, however they incur additional costs above and beyond the normal means of a small business, including paid training time for trainees, teaching fees, materials and resources. Each traineeship costs the Studio approximately $3,000 per annum, in addition to the wages we pay to the trainees.

3. Social support programs

The Studio offers a variety of support programs for free, including financial counselling, migration advice, legal advice, driving lessons, English language development, work experience in Administration, Bookkeeping, Accounting, Marketing and Event Management.
 These programs require us to employ staff and mentors to deliver the programs, and we seek support to keep them running.

4. Music, Dance and Modelling opportunities as part of our events.

Our events are wonderful building blocks for creative expression, self-esteem, cultural pride and community engagement. Each event showcases local talent in music, dance, and of course fashion! Our events incur costs including the hire of sound and staging equipment, venue hire, temporary permit fees, artist fees, material costs and catering.

5. Advocacy for the skills and capacity of migrant and refugee communities.

Our website, studio, shop and events all provide a showcase of the wonderful talents of our young designers, and encourage the community to embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

We use a variety of media including web, print and marketing campaigns to increase public awareness about the settlement support needs of new and emerging migrant communities, along with raising awareness about sustainability and ethical fashion.

We require financial support to assist us to produce and deliver our media campaigns, including the costs of graphic design and printing, web development, video and photographic production.

Are donations tax deductible?

Yes, The Social Studio is a tax-deductible charity with DGR (deductible gift recipient status). All donations are 100% tax deductible.

Do you accept fabric and equipment donations?

Yes, however we prefer larger quantities of fabric on the roll to small off-cuts. Please contact us to discuss your donation, as we have limited storage space and resources for pick-up and transportation. We are unable to use small pieces of fabric.

How can I get involved?

  • Shopping online or at our store.
  • Making a donation or becoming a monthly donor online.
  • Offering employment to our highly skilled trainees in retail, fashion design and manufacturing.
  • Funding one of our programs or contributing to the costs of TSS School.
  • Spreading the word and championing our work.

How do I become a volunteer?

We are particularly interested in volunteers with experience in fashion design or clothing manufacturing. To volunteer please fill out our Volunteer Registry form. We will keep your details on file, and when an opportunity comes up, we will contact you. Thank you for your support.

Are you planning on expanding to other locations?

The Social Studio has come about after many years worth of close work with the local community and has emerged through the interests and enthusiasm of the local community. We do not intend to franchise the model elsewhere as we believe the key to our success has been that we have grown out of the local community. We have agreed to mentor a group of people who are developing plans for a similar initiative in their community and will use this opportunity to explore a mentoring program that could encompass other locations in Australia. We have developed a strategic plan for growth and plan to expand our retail presence through partnerships with independent retailers and shopping centres in Melbourne.

Do you offer work experience placements?

Work experience is a great way for people to get a real sense of what its like to work in fashion and retail. Our work experience program is consistent with our organisation’s mission, and we offer positions to young people who face barriers to mainstream employment / training.