Charli Cox, founder of Koha Apparel. Image by Tom Powell.
Clothing is a necessity for us all but for those in poverty in New Zealand, buying clothing just isn’t an option, which is where not-for-profit Koha Apparel comes in. Founded by Charli Cox in January 2019, Koha Apparel distributes clothing and other necessities directly to those in need through it’s pay-as-you-can pop-up shops in Auckland. The clothing is donated by individuals or businesses and has been laundered before being offered for free to vulnerable people who need clean clothing but can’t afford it. Given the current global situation and that it’s now the chilly winter months here in NZ, Koha Apparel’s service is more in demand than ever.
We caught up with Charli to find out how Koha Apparel came to be, what the response has been like and how you can be involved?
Where did the idea for Koha Apparel come from and how did you go about setting it up?
I arrived in New Zealand from the UK in 2016 and when I first arrived, I was volunteering in an op shop and it was here that I realised the inequalities of access and an opportunity to do something about it. Honestly to me, clothing is a basic human right. Everybody should have access to it, whether you are rich or poor which is where the idea came from. I wanted to create a platform where people could come and shop at our pop-ups but with no cost associated to it which makes what we are doing more appealing to those who need it.
How does Koha Apparel work and where can people find you?
Koha Apparel is a not-for-profit, pay-as-you-can retail experience, using repurposed apparel. Our mission is repurposing quality clothing for those in need. Our store utilises a pay-as-you-can system which allows those struggling financially to access clean clothing for free. We also aim to reduce the amount of clothing waste going to landfill.
Since the beginning of 2019, we have been providing clean, quality new and secondhand clothing to vulnerable people throughout Auckland every week. We receive donations of clothing from New Zealand brands, as well as secondhand clothing. The clothing is repaired by volunteers where necessary and laundered before it is made available in our pop-up outlets.
Koha Apparel recently held a pop-up shop at St Kevin’s Arcade in Auckland.
What has the response been like to it so far?
We truly believe the social connection aspect is a huge part of what we do — bringing people together in our community from all walks of life, to access some very basic human needs. Creating space for these interactions and conversations can potentially change someone’s’ day or week for the better. Everyone should feel good in what they put on in the morning for whatever day they have ahead. We’re providing a service to our community where people can feel welcome and safe. We have regular people who came back to our pop-up month on month, overtime we have built relationships with vulnerable local people who rely on our store, to come and have a chat and pick out some clean clothes.
Our store creates a hub where people can come together, know that they are being looked after by the community, and connect socially with other people. We want people in our local communities to be supported, celebrated, strengthened and less isolated.
Through feedback from our community who come by our store, as well as social media comments, we can see there are many people in the community that require clean, warm layers of clothing, particularly as winter is here. Our pop-ups are in places that have a high number of people in need, so that we are easily accessible to those communities.
How has it evolved since it launched and where do you see Koha Apparel’s future?
Since starting out the demand has increased majorly this has pros and cons, it’s wonderful to be able to support our community but also extremely eye-opening to see the amount of people genuinely in need. Koha now distributes clothing and other necessities alongside Everybody Eats at their K Road and Onehunga restaurants and Life Soup Kitchen at their Otara and Henderson locations. Our pop-ups run once a week sometimes twice serving approximately 220 people throughout the month and distributing over 400 items of clothing.
There are many outreach programmes throughout Auckland that we are collaborating with. Our community is more open than ever to support those vulnerable with meals, clothing and services to improve their life for the better. Wellbeing is at the forefront of people’s minds. We will continue to collaborate with other outreach programmes throughout Auckland to reach a broader community.
The focus for now is to purchase a van, having a van would allow us to transport our whole pop-up and much more stock to our regular locations. Having a van would also give us a much further reach to rural areas, where people in our community do not have access to services like ours. People who are living on the poverty line. People who need our service most. The service we provide shouldn’t be exclusive to Auckland.
How can people and businesses support Koha Apparel?
I have been so lucky since setting out with the connections I have made with people in our community who equally as passionate around the many aspects of Koha. We are always looking for volunteers to support at our weekly pop-ups, repair donated garments and sort donations with us! If you are interested in volunteering your time head over to www.kohaapparel.com and get in touch. Follow us on our Facebook or Instagram to know when and where we are next popping up.
Images by Tom Powell.