History of Our Social Fabric
Our Social Fabric (OSF) was founded in 2009 by Leandre Melançon, a set decorator in Vancouver’s movie industry, and Kim Cathers, a fashion designer with a passion for upcycling and using recycled textiles.
Leandre and Kim began to collect waste fabric, predominantly from the movie industry, and stockpile them in a storage locker, holding occasional sales in the parking lot. They sold to emerging designers at low prices.
The beginning of OSF - our first storage locker
Our first sales were held in a parking lot.
The enterprise grew and it became obvious we would need more permanent space. We took up a free residence in the mezzanine space of Frog Box, a socially responsible moving box company.
Sales were held on weekends, when Frog Box was closed, with fabric sold by the bag. This was a huge improvement over the parking lot, but still meant hauling fabric out before sales and putting it away afterwards.
Setting up the sale space at Frog Box.
Non-profit status and our first dedicated space
OSF became an official non-profit in 2010 and we moved to our first rented store space at 871 East Hastings in September 2013.
Our first dedicated store space.
With our own space we could hold more frequent sales and were given the ability to measure, bundle and tag the fabrics. We still received donations from the movie industry, but more and more from manufacturing, designers, estates and home sewers. The building was sold in 2016 so it was time for us to move.
Growing and moving
After a long search, in May 2016 a space was found in the Russell Building at 1275 Venables Street, which we shared with 3H Craftworks and Common Thread - two organizations that work with people with mental health issues or special needs in a sewing capacity.
Our first space in the Russell Building.
Sales became extremely popular and we outgrew our space. In May 2018, we tripled our floor space, moving within the same building to our current second floor location. The larger space allows us to give a better shopping experience for our customers, create promotional displays, hold workshops and small events and gives us much more space to receive and sort donations.
Expanding across Canada
In 2020, the OSF team reacted quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst our brick and mortar store was forced to close for some time the management team pivoted and took the business online. The website was first set up for mask making supplies and over time expanded to include a full range of fabric, notions and patterns. Now we are happy to have a diverse customer base all over Canada alongside our vibrant in store shopping events!
In December 2023, we acquired a neighbouring unit allowing us to expand our footprint from 4,000 to 6,500 square feet and consolidating our retail and warehouse spaces into one location. The expansion has allowed us to create a larger, more accessible retail store. With the extra room, we are able to process donations more efficiently, make more fabric ready for sale and save even more material from landfill.
Our Social Fabric is still a non-profit focussed on eradicating textile waste from Canadian landfills. We are currently run by a board of volunteer directors and a whole host of regular volunteers.
First photo: courtesy of Ripple of Change magazine.