We have been focusing on refugees and migrants this month on the blog. We have a number of ventures who work with refugees. A number of them are part of our accelerator program, found!. The program is a joint initiative by Impact Hub Vienna and The Deloitte Future Fund to provide support to social entrepreneurs who are preparing refugees for the Austrian job market, creating job opportunities, or helping build independent livelihoods in their new countries. I interviewed Jasmin Bauer of Kattunfabrik, an NGO that works with tailors by training and integrating them into the job market. Kattunfabrik is a finalist of the 2018 found! program.
Where does the name “Die Kattunfabrik” come from?
Actually, the name derives from a special form of woven cotton – called “Kattun” in German. We started as an NGO also directly in Sankt Pölten (a bit outside Vienna), where there was, in former times, a Kattunfabrik [calico factory]. Bringing this together, it made a perfect name for our NGO.
How did Kattunfabrik get its start? Where did the inspiration come from?
As we saw that more and more new people were arriving in Austria, we wanted to offer them what we could, a place where they have the chance to repair their worn-out clothes. This was just the beginning. Around 20% of the refugees come from the textile industry, so a lot of questions were asked about how they can do this as their living here, how to find work, and how to qualify. We did some great research and this was the starting point of “Kattunfabrik” – a workshop open to those who want to get back in the working market.
What is the mission of Kattunfabrik?
We train our workshop attendants in theory and with practical advice, we give them a broad knowledge of the technical language (in German) they have to face here and we train them on how to get back in the working market after they received their asylum status.
But integration into the job market isn’t our only mission. We also care a lot about sustainability, about how to broaden the knowledge about how our clothes are made, and by whom. We talk at conferences and lead workshops on this topic to give people a chance to rethink their own consumerism.
What do you think are some of the main challenges refugees (and especially tailors) face when they come to a new country?
The hardest thing is to get the facts right – who can work under what circumstances, are there any exam papers for their profession – as the working conditions are of course restricted here in Austria. But we believe that working is an essential part of life and of being in a community.
Thankfully, a lot of businesses are working to help refugees through their relocation. What is unique about the way your organization is working to solve these challenges for the refugee community?
We not only focus on free time, we directly focus on training them to get back to work. As far as we know, there is no other organization doing this this way, especially concerning the textile industry. One of our main goals is also to point out that there is so much knowledge coming to Austria now, such as techniques and focus – we can merge this with the Austrian-based knowledge and re-create new ways of working here in textiles.
What are your next goals and plans for Kattunfabrik? What do you hope to get out of your time in the found! program?
We have already gotten so much out of it, thanks to our trainers and mentors from Deloitte and Impact Hub. We are now expanding ourselves and are currently in the process of opening a tailor’s shop with delivery service. Our personnel are taken from Kattunfabrik’s masterclass, so we directly introduce them to the working market and find a solid job base for them. Our new project is called wearrepair.