The local nonprofit, Rethreaded, continues its partnership with Southwest Airlines to produce a line of leather accessories inspired by the winning designs seen on the fan-favorite Unconventional Materials episode of Project Runway All Stars, Season 7, on Jan. 17, 2019. Designers were tasked with creating a look for modern day air travel from provided materials and crafting a leather accessory out of upcycled Southwest aircraft seat covers, in less than 24 hours.
Episode winner Irina Shabayeva consulted the women of Rethreaded on the production of the new accessories, for sale now at www.rethreaded.com/pages/rethreadedxsouthwest. Rethreaded operates as a social enterprise to provide a safe and supportive environment for victims of trauma and exploitation and give them career opportunities.
“We are so proud to be collaborating with Southwest Airlines to create opportunities for survivors of human trafficking to reclaim their lives,” said Rethreaded founder Kristin Keen. “This partnership has already allowed us to scale our operations and transform the lives of women in our community.”
In the Unconventional Materials episode, Southwest provided items commonly used in air travel, including coffee cups, peanut packets, seat belts and aircraft seat leather. These items were specifically chosen to showcase how everyday items can be creatively repurposed into something new.
Safety vests became a sporty jacket, ticket jackets became a geometric top and in Shabayeva’s winning look paper cups became a vibrant red, futuristic miniskirt set. All looks featured a leather accessory crafted from Southwest seat leather, with the top designs to be reproduced by Rethreaded for sale online. Typically, this would be impossible to do with the unconventional materials challenge, but Rethreaded’s past history of engagement with the airline made it a natural fit to take on the project. The result is a unique, one of a kind Project Runway All Stars inspired line.
Rethreaded first collaborated with Southwest in 2017 as part of the airline’s ongoing Repurpose with Purpose initiative, an effort to upcycle discarded material into useful products with the help of partner organizations. This initiative helps generate social and economic opportunities for the community partners it serves. Rethreaded, which provides survivors of human trafficking a second chance at life through long-term employment coupled with mental health services, transformed thousands of pounds of discarded leather into a line of unique jewelry and accessories. Southwest further offered its support through a grant that allowed the organization to purchase new sewing machines.
“At Southwest, we have long been dedicated to global citizenship and Repurpose with Purpose allows us to lead in that effort while continuously minimizing our environmental footprint and maximizing our social impact,” said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines senior vice president and chief communications officer. “We are thrilled to showcase our creative upcycling efforts through our partnership with Project Runway All Stars, and help empower women through our ongoing partnership with Rethreaded.”
Rethreaded’s in-house team of artisans, salespeople, and managers — many of whom have found freedom from human trafficking with the nonprofit’s services — will expand the line to include a limited edition collection of products inspired by the unconventional materials episode. Shabayeva has visited Rethreaded headquarters in Jacksonville and helped direct the look of the final products.