STITCHES OF EMPOWERMENT
A bit over 25 years ago, in 1994, in Barcelona’s Women Penitentiary Facility, 5 of the inmates, a volunteer and an employee dreamed of creating a group that would enable the women in the facility to learn a skill that could help them find a job once they left prison. Their vision and work would create Fundació Ared, a non-profit supporting vulnerable and socially excluded people enter the workforce through training and tailored support programmes. In the last few decades, Ared has trained and supported 11,274 people and directly found employment for 3,561.
With the passing of the years, they have expanded their reach and now work with people referred from other social programs outside of the penitentiary system. They are part of a small but resilient and robust network of organisations in Barcelona. They believe that dignified work is a right and share the understanding that a just society needs to look beyond equality and into equity.
As Ared grew and professionalised their activities, they saw a win-win opportunity, creating a social business that would enable them to employ part of the people that they were training, to complement their existing partnerships with private sector companies. This way, in March 2006, Salta is born. Offering catering and textile manufacturing services, Salta employs today more than 70 people. The goal of the team is to provide a bridge that connects the training courses with final employment in the private sector. This goal is achieved by providing work experience and offering soft landing into employment, where the workers can still benefit from strong support from the Foundation team.
Ared – and Salta, their subsidiary company – are a beacon for how market models could work. They help the market tick, offering services and producing things that are needed while employing a growing workforce and running a profitable and successful business. Growth is good because more business means more impact – the more contracts they can secure with clients, the more people at risk they can support in their journey to re-enter the workforce.
But their North Star is clear, they measure success by the number of programs delivered, people trained and people employed. Success means lives improved, not profits made. With their profits reinvested back into the Foundation, they can keep growing their impact.
ANA MARI, THE HEAD SEAMSTRESS THAT SUPERVISES ALL OF SALTA'S PRODUCTION
We came across Ared by chance. We wanted to produce in Spain and were looking at Cataluña as a central textile hub in the country. We wanted our production to have a positive social impact. Sewing, where we work with our hands, is a perfect candidate for work programs that focus on social inclusion. Making things with our hands is calming, mindful, and rewarding, and progress can be tracked easily as the level of complexity of the things that we create increases. We had been in touch with a few workshops but hadn’t found the perfect fit yet, and then a friend talked to us about Ared. We got in touch, hit it off, and a week later, we were knocking on their door with a suitcase full of samples. We immediately clicked with the team, and after a sampling round that shocked us because of its perfect details and finishes, we started our first production run.
MARTA, OUR CUTTER
MARTA AT WORK, MARKING OUR GOTS LINEN FOR CUTTING
Today we produce all our weaved clothes at Ared – that is all our styles except our t-shirts. Ared receives an average of 20% of the purchase price of each of our pieces. That money pays fair wages to their workers and helps fund the team that works to help them improve their skills and confidence, so that they can take on jobs outside of Salta one day. We’re one of many clients that Salta works with, and quite likely the smallest. But most of their work is the industrial production of work uniforms, and we continuously get the feedback that the women love to work in our clothes – they’re complex designs that challenge their skills, and they’re proud to see the clothes that they made featured in fashion magazines from all over the world.
ONE OF OUR MACHINISTS FINISHING THE TWIST BLOUSE
OUR BUTTONS ARE HAND STITCHED FOR DURABILITY