The Friperie Solidaire, a member of the Emmaus movement and organisation governed by the French law of 1901, is a certified social enterprise.
The organisation employs more than forty people a year to get them back into work. Every year, we reuse more than 350 tons of donated textiles.
Based on the assessment that the collected textile deposit was not being sufficiently exploited, a dressmaking and alterations project was set up five years ago at the Friperie Solidaire’s workshop. The customers’ general enthusiasm encouraged the organisation to register a textile brand name: Le Labo de l’Abbé (the Abbé’s lab).
Registered in late 2014 by Emmaüs La Friperie Solidaire, the brand name came about from the team’s desire to promote the talent of the social enterprise’s employees for the development of responsible and ethical fashion.
Bringing together creativity and Emmaus’s values of solidarity, diversity, dignity through work, offering an unconditional welcome, and sustainable development: that’s the challenge to which Emmaus La Friperie Solidaire has risen by setting up Le Labo de l’Abbé.
Le Labo de l’Abbé is an environmentally-responsible brand, selling clothing and accessories made in France using 100% recycled waste fabric. In this way, it offers consumers an alternative to standard, throw-away fashion. Each item is unique and is produced in very small quantities.
The social enterprise’s dressmakers come from many different backgrounds. Every day they combine their know-how and personal qualities, getting to know one another whilst creating elegant and socially-responsible items of clothing.
The complex task of choosing fabric, selecting high-quality materials, and using imagination and creativity all come together to produce items that are unique or limited in quantity.
The dressmaking workshop offers new opportunities of integration through work and training in the field of dressmaking.
All of our social enterprise employees benefit from social and professional support throughout their time with us and for four months after leaving.
Le Labo de l’Abbé’s entire collection is created at the Emmaus dressmaking workshop, La Friperie Solidaire, in Maisons-Alfort in the Paris region, using donated textiles. Every year more than 350 tons of textiles are collected and sorted in our workshop.
Our workshop functions on the basis of the principles of the circular economy: “First repair, then reuse, and lastly recycle”, thus helping prevent textile waste.
The dressmakers (from three to five people) learn to sew using patterns. They benefit from the supervision of the technical supervisor and regularly from the volunteers who lend their skills in design and scale modelling.
Le Labo de l’Abbé’s creations are made entirely using textiles donated by individuals and companies.
In 2017, a group of students from the French Institute of Fashion (IFM) came to help us develop an identity for Le Labo de l’Abbé brand.
Our dressmakers have also benefited from a transfer of skills through various partnerships, in particular with a young eco-designer and a fashion designer/machinist from a major fashion house.
At the start, the dressmaking workshop was focused on making adjustments to damaged clothing.
Gradually though, our dressmakers chose to give the items of clothing a twist, creating new ones or making accessories such as small handbags and bigger bags.
After customisation, clothing design was only a step away. Now le Labo de l’Abbé sells a womenswear collection.
We plan to continue developing le Labo de l’Abbé brand by introducing a new, sustainable ready-to-wear collection in spring 2018.
We are also considering the possibility of selling our creations online.
Lastly, we are also considering improving our visual identity.
To mark the month dedicated to the social and solidarity economy, the local town hall held up as examples initiatives by local organisations that help re-think our economy and come up with alternative ways of living.
As part of this, we showcased the 2017 collection ‘Panache solidaire’ – bringing together elegance, a look and a sense of style that go hand-in-hand with solidarity and being environmentally responsible.
All the items in the collection have therefore been created and handmade in Le Labo de l’Abbé’s workshop in Paris.
More than 200 people came to the fashion show on 17 November 2017 at the Olympe de Gouges venue in Paris. On the catwalk, women and children presented the new collection, to enthusiastic applause from the audience. Afterwards, there was an exhibition and a one-off sale of the fashion show garments, followed by a concert by the singer, Kora Jamson, who was discovered by the television programme, The Voice.
We at the Friperie Solidaire know for sure that circular fashion as we conceive it is a way of putting solidarity into action. We demonstrate this every day with our solidarity chain, from the moment an item of clothing is collected, then passes through our sorting and tailoring workshops, through to the moment it is sold.
The fashion show enabled us to reach a new target market.
We were also approached by a number of people willing to lend their support to the project as volunteers.
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We think implementing a digital strategy is essential in order to reach a larger market beyond our shop in Paris.