Each season Saben creates a collection of leather handbags and wallets, inspired by the women who will wear them. Our series Women For Good aims to promote and encourage those women who inspire us. We are excited to introduce Charli, founder of Koha Apparel. What's Koha Apparel you ask? They are a non-profit retail experience that operates on a "Take What You Need, Give What You Can" model which allows those struggling financially to access clean, quality clothing.
Charli and her powerhouse team of volunteers started in January 2019, hosting Koha Apparel pop ups at St Kevin's Arcade and other locations around Auckland.
Since then, they have helped communities around the North Island from Tauranga to Wellington but they're not stopping there!
Koha Apparel has always operated with a dual purpose, clothing those vulnerable in our community AND diverting landfill. The most direct solution to tackling textile waste is an accessible, sustainable recycling solution.
I'll hand the mic to Charli who can share a bit more about her Koha journey and what motivates her to be an incredible human, championing positive change in our community..
Tell us about yourself, and what led you to become the woman you are today.
Kia Ora, I’m Charli. I'm English, I am 30 years old and grew up in Essex with my dad & two brothers. I was brought up in the UK and lived in Sydney for a couple of years and when moving to New Zealand nearly 5 years ago I soon came to realise the inadequate access some of our community have to their basic human rights - one of which is clothing. Clothing poverty is so overlooked, poor foot health is so overlooked and at this point in my life I had to do something about it. I am strong willed person, I say it how it is and I am determined to make a positive difference for as long as I am on this planet.
Talk to us about Koha, those early days of its inception and what was the deep burning motivator to turn it from ideas to reality.
I have never underestimated the difference we can collectively make to our communities' lives, there are people in need in every corner of this nation and in the world. I say it a lot (because its true) when you see a need, you cannot un-see it and you notice it everywhere you go. While our mission is to bring people together from all walks of life, to access some very basic human needs and rights. I truly believe the social connection aspect is a huge part of what we do, Creating space for these interactions and conversations can potentially change someone’s’ day or week for the better. Everyone should feel good about what they wear each day for the day ahead.
What do you love most about running the pop ups?
We’re providing a service to our community where our customers can feel welcomed and safe. Our community at each of our pop-ups have become friends of mine and the connection runs much deeper than just providing clothing. I look forward to every pop-up we run and am providing this service for both the better of our people, but also the better of me. There is no better feeling, than connecting with our community, I love them for who they are, whatever their story, past, circumstance, my family in New Zealand are the people I meet at our pop-ups and there is a fair few of them, from all walks of life.
And now, growing team, growing goals, is it a case of the more you do the more you see needs doing?
Its growing alright! I absolutely cannot take all the credit, I am surrounded by volunteers who are nothing short of amazing. Without them Koha Apparel could not happen every week, there is so much that goes into what we do, at the level of service and quality we deliver on. Its more than clothing on a rack. Our volunteers, wash, sort, do the heavy lifting, the hard mahi, repair and repurpose, photograph and turn up every single week or month and take the time for our community to connect and talk and really sometimes that’s all they need. Someone’s time, someone to listen. There are many moving parts which enable Koha to take place each week. This includes running a team of volunteers, sourcing donations, securing corporate partnerships and most importantly of all, ensuring we are providing the best possible experience for our community. It doesn’t happen overnight, but luckily when people believe in your mission want to be a part of it, many hands make light work. No two days are the same, but in case you haven’t figured it out. I LOVE IT, dearly. I am honored to be able to continue to reach more and more people throughout Aotearoa but the reality of what I do hits me in the face every day.
How can we help?
We are always on the hunt for volunteers and extra hands to support what we do. The importance of having reliable, regular volunteers at our pop-ups is crucial to what we do so please if you want to be involved head over to our website and complete our ‘Volunteer’ registration form – you won’t regret it. It is so special, and you could play a part in this.
Koha Apparel have weekly pop ups and their Saturday store has just opened in Mt Albert.
What's next for Koha Apparel?
After a huge amount of work behind the scenes, Koha Apparel is proud to finally present to you ‘Saturday’s’ - a weekly opportunity to shop with us, support our mission and get yourself some new (old) digs.
'Saturday’s’ will be open every single Saturday from 10am-2pm for you to come and shop, knowing 100% of profits raised will be fed back into our mission and the work we do in our community.
10am-2pm, Unit 1, 955 New North Road, Mt Albert, Auckland
To find out more about Charli and Koha Apparel click here.
To join her community on Insta, click here.
To donate quality clothing, time or cash, get in touch with Charli here.
Charli wears Saben Big Sis Tilly in new season shade French Navy - soon to be released as part of our Spring Summer collection Wild Garden.