Clothing is a necessity for us all but for those in poverty in New Zealand, buying clothing just isn’t an option, which is where not-for-profit Koha Apparel comes in. Founded by Charli Cox in January 2019, Koha Apparel distributes clothing and other necessities directly to those in need through its pay-as-you-can pop-up shops in Auckland. The clothing is donated by individuals or businesses and has been laundered before being offered for free to vulnerable people who need clean clothing but can’t afford it.
Given the current global situation and that it’s now the chilly winter months here in NZ, Koha Apparel’s service is more in demand than ever. We caught up with FashionNZ to talk about how Koha Apparel came to be, what the response has been like and how you can be involved.
FashionNZ: The theme for this year's International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge, as a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. What does that mean to you, and how are you challenging yourself?
Koha challenges me daily. I had never run a business before stepping into this. Expanding Koha to Wellington this year will be my most significant challenge yet, letting go and allowing a team to run it was huge for me. Many moving parts allow Koha to happen each week — running a team, sourcing donations and ensuring we are providing the best possible experience for our community. It doesn't happen overnight.
FashionNZ: Why is it important that we celebrate International Women's Day, and what does it mean to you?
This day is as important as any other day of the year — something we should think about and practise daily. Everybody should be treated as equals; there should be more focus on inclusivity within the human race in general.
FashionNZ: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women today?
To add to my point above, while most garment workers are women, what is required is a focus on equality throughout; decent human rights protection for all, not only women. I believe and wish the reality was that we all have equal chances in life, people shouldn't have a poorer chance at life because of where they were born, what they believe or who they are.
FashionNZ: What are you most proud of doing?
Starting Koha Apparel, for a long time, was a dream. I am beyond proud of the reach we have had since beginning in 2019. I feel the proudest when I see the impact Koha is having on our communities lives. Sometimes it isn't even about the clothing but the conversations we share. The social aspect of Koha is so essential; it's such a unique experience seeing our community come together from all walks of life, and our volunteers.
FashionNZ: Which woman do you admire the most and why?
I had the honour to attend a Transgender Day of Remembrance Service in November last year. Four transgender women spoke about their stories, their upbringing and their experiences. Listening to these ladies, was eye-opening. I admire their courage, what it must have taken to share their experiences, the abuse, humiliation, alienation merely being themselves.
FashionNZ: What are your goals for the future?
My dream is to be able to provide clothing throughout New Zealand to communities in need. Improved access has been a long term mission since starting Koha; to have a much broader reach. There are people in need in every corner of this nation, this world. Perhaps even more so now.