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a circular and social enterprise

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It is Hul le Kes’ mission to let fashion and textiles contribute to people, environment and society. This isn’t just some mission adopted at random, it is held in our company’s statutes. Therefore we can proudly call ourselves a social enterprise; a business that brings a positive contribution to its environment and society. In keeping with that, we’ve put a few conditions on ourselves. As the upcoming week will be the week of circular economy 2022 (7 - 12 February) I’ll explain to you the how and why of our social enterprise. At the same time this post is meant as a tribute and a compliment to all people and institutions we have and have had the pleasure of working with.

Making profit is the biggest, and most of the time the only aim most companies have. Their existence and expansion are driven completely by maximizing profit. This profit then goes towards the owner and shareholder. At Hul le Kes things are a little different.

Firstly, we weren’t founded on the ideal of making profit for the owners. Hul le Kes was founded because we wanted to develop a different view towards people and products. By showing emotional and social values that may hide in - or according to us, should hide in – garments. We wanted to make an impact; a positive impact on society and a reappreciation for people and textiles. When taking our approach to set up a workable alternative system, we quickly found that there are multiple facets in this development that go hand in hand.

Education and local production

Developing an alternative system means certain parts have to be reinvented entirely. Over the last few years it is these first steps that we’ve taken. To start off, we found a new type of manufacturing studio, Studio Ryn, in cooperation with Rijn IJssel Creatieve Industrie (the local college for secondary vocational education).


The atelier alone has multiple aims. It builds bridges between education and the changing local and national climate of fashion. The development towards production that is more local and circular means the level of education future craftsmen are getting has to change fast. With that, Studio Ryn is an extension of Rijn IJssel’s fashion department and a place to intern for students from the whole country. It’s an important spider in the web when it comes to local and circular production in The Netherlands. Not just for the students but for sustainable labels themselves. At Hul le Kes we stress the importance for students of being able to work for other labels too. At the same time we want to open up means of local production to other sustainable labels. Hul le Kes can’t single-handedly change the fashion system, we have to do this by working together and opening up our knowledge.

For quite some time now, the atelier has also been a place for people with some distance to the labor market. A place to work and develop oneself. This is done in cooperation with Scalabor, the regional employment center for people with distance to the job market. Additionally this provides students with a more interesting environment that doesn’t resemble a school setting, whilst allowing knowledge and experience to be shared. Now, even a couple of individuals who came to us through Rijn IJssel as well as Scalabor have permanent jobs at Hul le Kes to invest in each other over a longer term.

Repairing and mending

A next step we still missed in our way towards a circular system was the possibility of mending textiles. There are still, of course, numerous traditional tailoring workshops throughout the country, but really repairing damaged clothing or textiles is practically impossible. Repairing textiles is an important factor in a sustainable fashion system. Through our own experience we discovered that working by hand can bring calm and even pleasure during times of stress. A find that scientific research underlines. Like most people, we too have seen the increase in people with a burn-out, depression, stress and the exclusion of people who for whatever reason are going through mental or physical problems. Those two factors lead to our Recovery Studio.

The Recovery Studio works with Scalabor, Driestroom and Activerend Werk, to provide a place of work for people. A calm place where someone can work at their own pace, be surrounded by others and recover some routine in life. Every human has a need for some sort of meaning and contribution to their community. By working at the Recovery Studio they can have that goal and make that contribution, and recover themselves in the process. Thanks to their help, textiles are mended and those textiles too, are reintroduced in society. In the Recovery Studio too, we don’t just work with Hul le Kes, we cooperate with other labels such as Gray Label and Allude.

Resource

Something Hul le Kes doesn’t have in-house, is a collecting point for old textiles.
Working with old textiles is an important factor for us as a brand, we order next to no new materials.
Even though more and more people are coming our way and donating their old textiles, this is an incomparable amount in comparison to what’s being brought to big recycling firms.

So instead of reinventing the wheel, we work together with those firms. 2Switch, Reshare and Sympany. Currently our biggest cooperation is with 2Switch, Arnhem’s local recycling company. Like us, 2Switch employs a good amount of people with distance to the job market.  2Switch brings us new materials on a weekly basis. Those old materials we upcycle in characterful garments. Think of the woollen blankets we make our Monet and Cremer jackets with, alongside heaps of other material to use in the Recovery Studio.
Together with the Salvation Army’s ReShare Store, we took the label Hul le Kes ReShared to the market. Discarded textiles, dyed the Hul le Kes way. These items can be found in their ReShared stores as well as our website. 

Goals and support

All these points I’ve talked about are a recurring theme in the company’s goals for each year.
In those goals our current status of for example, our cooperation with education, is drawn out. Where are we, and where do we want to go? How many people can we help back into the labor market, and what is the policy on our resources?
In order to attain these goals, people at Hul le Kes put in their best and in doing so, and we are advised and checked by our advisory board. This board consists of Ine van Burgsteden, Adriaan Luteijn and Peter Hobbelen. These three people come from different professional backgrounds, combining different perspectives and a lot of experience in the social realm. They’re there to help us steer the right course.

Besides the board, Hul le Kes receives great support from other parties. As a part of Deloitte’s ‘Scaling Social Enterprises’, Hul le Kes and 13 other Dutch businesses are supported with the knowledge and expertise of roughly 1750 of Deloitte’s advisors. Additionally, the Rabo Foundation, Stichting Doen and the municipality of Arnhem have supported us financially in setting up our social activities. It is with their investment that our company runs as it does now.

There are numerous people and organisations that have helped Hul le Kes along. Quite frequently we are donated materials, help or financial aid in order to do what we do, and widen our impact.
Lastly, of course, every sold Hul le Kes item is a direct contribution to our mission.

On behalf of the whole team I want to thank all partners and customers for their varying contributions to a workable, alternative fashion system! Onwards to a circular and social system!

Sebastiaan Kramer (36) is managing director at Hul le Kes. Together with Sjaak Hullekes he graduated from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in the field of fashion design. Since their graduation they have worked and lived together. Sebastiaan began his career as a designer, but gradually shifted to the business side of fashion. During his following schooling in business administration he focused on non-Western and alternative approaches to management. Aside from his role at Hul le Kes, he is director of Studio Ryn and artistic director of Fashion + Design Festival Arnhem and Duurzame Mode 025. Sebastiaan is a regular guest lecturer and speaker at universities on the subject of alternative management.


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