How a Lavender Bay couple is giving dignity to Sydney’s homeless one piece of clothing at a time.
First published in northsider Winter 2019. Chris and Olga are still operating their clothing services while following all the latest Gov recommendations regarding Covid-19. All images in this article were taken last year.
It was a wardrobe clear-out that got Olga Puga and Chris Vagg thinking.
“Chris had so many things he didn’t wear,” stylist Olga says. “And a lot of the items were almost new.”
After taking a few pieces of clothing to the local charity bin, the pair decided to look into just where the items were going.
“I realised the best clothes are often kept and sold in charity shops,” Chris explains. “A lot of the rest often go to be sold overseas or cut into rags. I just thought there might be something we could do that would benefit people in need right now.”
Chris and Olga decided they could take these second-hand clothes directly to the streets of Sydney. And that if Chris’s wardrobe was anything to go by, there would be plenty of other people with similar items who’d love to help. Together, they formed the social enterprise Pass It On Clothing & Co in 2017.
“Just because someone has fallen on hard times, doesn’t mean they’re different from you or I”
“Our aim was to put unwanted clothes, shoes and accessories directly into the hands of those people who need them the most,” Chris explains.
In the first month of taking their clothes racks to Martin Place, they passed on 633 items. Since then, Chris and Olga have provided 55,000 items of men’s and women’s clothing to Sydney’s homeless community.
“A lot of people are just one bad bill away from living in the car, just one step away from homelessness,” Chris says. “And as the cost of living goes up, buying a new shirt goes further and further down the list.”
“Just because someone has fallen on hard times, doesn’t mean they’re different from you or I. Homeless doesn’t mean helpless.”
“One lady cried recently,” Chris recalls. “She told me she hadn’t had anything new to wear in ten years. I’m so proud we were able to do that for her.”
Pass It On Clothing & Co currently collaborates with corporates for clothing items with businesses subscribing to have a clothing bin. Chris and Olga then collect, sort and distribute the items. There’s a good quality policy and socks and undies must be new. With temperatures dropping, the need for warm clothes is only rising.
“You don’t have to give $1 million,” Chris concludes. “A jumper or a pair of socks can truly make such an impact to someone in need.”
A community of kindness The team set up wardrobe stations at four locations in Sydney where homeless people and those doing it tough can come and select items for themselves and have a chat. “We want it to be the best hour of their day,” Chris says.
For more information and to find more out about purchasing a custom clothing bin for your business, look up Pass It On Clothing & Co on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org