Ties That Matter: Recycled Fashion that Benefits the Homeless


Ties That MatterIn 2008, three friends decided to pilot a unique idea. Could they start a business that used recycled materials, produced no waste, employed women who needed work, and gave a portion of its proceeds back to the community? They collected 1,500 ties, inspired more than 100 volunteers, and turned the discarded menswear into 1,000 reusable grocery bags for sale. They contributed all the proceeds, (more than $6,000), to the Central Presbyterian Outreach and Advocacy Center (OAC) in downtown Atlanta. The event generated so much interest and enthusiasm, Ties That Matter was born in 2009.

Laura Martin, a former author/illustrator, is the only full-time employee and designs all the products, which now include clutch purses, designer pillows, slouch bags, special occasion purses, and by-request custom items. Depending on order quantity, Ties That Matter employs from two to fifteen sewers to make the bags. Sewers are previously unemployed women who are thrilled to put their skills to use and happy to be able to work in their homes.

Since Ties That Matter uses 100 percent recycled materials, nearly 50 percent of the wholesale price goes directly to the sewer. The sewer workforce is a fluid one, as women sometimes have family issues that keep them from working for periods of time, but the company is dedicated to holding jobs for the women whenever possible so they can return to work once their situation stabilizes. Martin says that their mission is threefold: they want to make use of discarded materials, employ women in need, and give back to the community. For 2011, Ties That Matter has pledged 10 percent of its profits to the Atlanta OAC to help combat homelessness.

Martin says that churches have been an overwhelming and wonderful source of donated ties of beautiful, high-quality silk, but she confides that she really likes the events they schedule with the elementary schools. “It gives the kids a chance to be involved and learn about recycling and homelessness.” Homelessness has become an epidemic in this tough economic environment stemming from many different causes, especially, Martin feels, a lack of support from the community. People get into a bind and have no place to go for help. The children, and even their parents, have a hard time understanding homelessness and the children ask a lot of direct questions, which leads to discussion, tolerance and a renewed need to help.

Since its start in 2009, Ties That Matter has continued to grow by leaps and bounds and Martin looks forward to what 2011 will bring. “The main reason for being in business is to create change in our community…We feel like we can make a difference by helping to provide these services, by giving funds to people who know how to help. The more we sell, the more we can give.”

Got some ties you think would look great on someone’s arm? Send them to:
Ties That Matter, LLC
PO Box 11914
Atlanta, GA 30355

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

5 responses

  1. The founder of the Body Shop, Anita Roddick, inspired me with her belief that social responsibility in business is just good practice and good business. These stories are so inspiring and I can only hope to move someone the way that so many have moved me.

  2. Saving the planet and affecting social change using the business as a spring board is great and an actual endeavor of mine. Laura Martin’s story is very inspiring. I think I’ve heard about Ties That Matter somewhere before, but not sure where.

  3. What an inspiring story! I work for KNO Clothing (A Philadelphia clothing company working to end homelessness) and it’s great to see that fashion and passion can collide to provide for those in our community who are in need and open doors of opportunities!

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