Over 600 teams from 105 countries took on the challenge with many showing dedication, resilience and passion to complete their projects despite difficulties faced during the global pandemic.
Three projects from Bradfield made the semi-finals, Threads for Change, The Community Repair Shop and The Phoenix Project, and the latter team were named as a finalist and Social Media Champion for their Instagram page. Here, the seven pupils involved in The Phoenix Project discuss their journey from initial conception to running a non-profit charitable organisation and reveal how they transformed a business during the lockdown.
Just as phoenixes are said to rise from the ashes, we want to give clothes another life.
When we began, we set out to collect unwanted clothes that were going to be thrown away and resell them at low prices to give them a new home. We found that there seems to be a stigma in the younger generation that charity shops are not cool, but what is really not cool is the amount of waste the fashion industry produces.
The best way for us to manage the delivery of our plan was to provide an online shop where clothes that are donated could be resold, encouraging young people to be more aware of the harm they are causing to the environment when they buy new clothes.
We had three main aims for our project: to raise awareness for the waste brought about by buying new clothes, to create an online second-hand shop to provide a sustainable way to buy and donate clothes, and to encourage people to think twice about throwing clothes away.
We targeted two of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Responsible Consumption and Production as well as Climate Action.
Building up to the summer, our team spent roughly 225 hours on the project running meetings, organising our popup shops, spreading the word on social media, campaigning and promoting the project and handling orders.
Whilst this project has improved and encouraged sustainability, it has also helped us to develop new skills. We learnt to work well together and listen to everybody’s ideas in order to make the best decisions for the project. It also helped us improve our confidence and public speaking as we addressed each year group to raise awareness. Running the pop-up shop meant that we had to step forward to encourage people to buy from us.
By the beginning of the summer we had over 200 sales and around 350 items donated. In a recent survey sent out to the school, we received many positive comments about our project. Comments including ‘offering a valuable service in the current environmentally charged situation’ and ‘great initiative’, has shown that we have given the people in our community a way to help the environment and their eagerness to do what they can. 78% of people responding to the survey said the project has made them more aware when buying and throwing out clothes.
1. Creating the Brand
We spent a while putting together a brand and making it look professional. We came up with the idea of The Phoenix Project as just as phoenixes are said to rise from the ashes, we want to give clothes another life. We set up our Instagram page and got ready to start receiving donations.
2. Spreading Our Wings
We began to implement our project in College by placing donation boxes in boarding houses, as well as putting up digital posters, sending out emails and speaking in each of the year group assemblies. We were struggling to set up a website, but we sent out a survey and the overwhelming majority said they would prefer to purchase clothes through Instagram at that time.
3. Launch Event
Taking the feedback from our initial project plan we decided to hold a launch event to promote our project and build a budget to set up a website and fund the project. We organised a pop-up shop in a venue we were offered for no cost. We had an amazing response to this with the shop becoming incredibly busy. Some 50 people purchased items giving us nearly £400 to reinvest into the project.
4. Changes due to the global pandemic
Inevitably, we had to make some changes as the lockdown was announce. This did however, quickly push us to expand out of Bradfield and we can now send clothes to anyone in the UK. We have had to put a pause on donations but are encouraging people to use this time to sort through their wardrobes. This has shifted our focus to finding sustainable packaging and promoting our brand. An Instagram fashion influencer and blogger has offered to promote The Phoenix Project and we have had contact with Strictly Come Dancing professional Katya Jones which we hope will turn into another opportunity to promote our service.
5. Future Plans
The Phoenix Project has had a number of successes, but we don’t intend to stop. We want to expand and will be holding more pop-up shops as soon as we can. We want to support primary schools in holding their own pop up clothes stores as well as using contacts at other secondary schools to increase our reach and spread awareness.
People have been asking for more professional photos, so we’re going to invest in equipment to be able to carry this out. We will keep expanding our website as, despite the success of the Instagram and pop-up shop side of the business, we fully recognise that there are some people who simply do not have social media or prefer more conventional methods of shopping.