A stronger social fabric with Clothing The Gaps
October is Indigenous Business Month: an initiative recognising the power of business as a means to self-determination and creating positive outcomes for First Nations communities. This month, B Lab Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand is partnering with Ngarrimili to bring our community spotlights of First Nations-owned and operated businesses that you can support today to use business as a force for good.
To kick things off, we spoke with Laura Thompson of Clothing the Gaps: a fashion label managed by health professionals that celebrates Aboriginal people and culture.
B Lab: Tell us about Clothing The Gaps and what you're passionate about.
Laura: Clothing The Gaps is an Aboriginal social enterprise based on Wurundjeri Country and we are super passionate about uniting Aboriginal and Non-Indigenous people through fashion and causes to influence social change. We use business and fashion as a vehicle to enable people to wear their values on their tees as conversation starters.
B Lab: B Corps are all about bringing profit & purpose together to prove they aren’t mutually exclusive. What is Clothing The Gaps’ ‘purpose’?
Laura: Harnessing the power of business to do good is such a powerful thing and this is why we love B Corps so much! So much so that we have begun the process of becoming a B Corp ourselves. A tee really can make impact. As a social enterprise, we use profit for purpose every single day.
Clothing The Gaps is a hub of Aboriginal employment, and exists to unite people through fashion and causes to influence action for social change so that Aboriginal people and communities thrive.
B Lab: How important has the community been in growing your brand?
Laura: We are so grateful for our incredible community of supporters! The Aboriginal Community is absolutely everything to us at Clothing The Gaps! Everything we do is with mob in our hearts first and foremost, and then everyone else in mind. We know that some things are just for community to connect with and celebrate, so we created some super easy symbols to help guide people in their purchasing process. We labelled each product as either ‘Mob Only’ or ‘Ally Friendly’. This really helped answer the question of ‘Can I wear that?’ we were getting every day.
Within the Clothing The Gaps Foundation, seeing Community drive positive health and wellbeing in their own spaces was the driver behind igniting the ‘Mob Run This’ project. We are so proud of the way that Aboriginal Communities across the Country have spread healthy habits in their own ways in their home towns.
B Lab: You’ve pushed through a few huge roadblocks in starting Clothing The Gaps — from the flag copyright to a legal battle with Gap. What (or who) inspired you to keep pushing through?
Laura: It’s been an absolute rollercoaster since we started out in business – from cease and desists over the Aboriginal Flag, to a legal battle with international giant GAP Inc over our name, to a global pandemic – it feels like we’ve had it all in just a few short years!
Our Community of supporters really have been such a source of strength during the tougher times. We are also driven every day by our purpose and the impact we want to see in the world, which means that when roadblocks do present themselves, we know why we are digging deep to get around them – it’s so much bigger than just us.
B Lab: Tell us about the types of projects you support through the Clothing the Gaps Foundation.
Laura: The Clothing The Gaps Foundation launched in May 2021, and is an Aboriginal-led not-for-profit organisation. One of the key projects of the Foundation has been steering virtual run events across the country. In early 2020, as we all know, COVID-19 hit the world! Despite isolation, restrictions, lockdowns and everything in between, our team of passionate health practitioners wanted to keep people moving. But the question was how to do this during a global pandemic when we can’t deliver our programs in Community anymore. This is where our virtual runs were born.
Since then, we’ve delivered four virtual running events that got over 20,000 people moving from across the country and the world.
Not only were people moving, they were also connecting with one another and learning about Aboriginal history and culture.
In 2020, our virtual events had over 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants. In 2021, with the launch of the Foundation focusing specifically on using the ‘Mob Run This’ toolkit to work alongside Aboriginal Community groups to see events launch in their own hometowns, participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people doubled to 40%. We are so proud of that!