We chatted to Charli from Koha Apparel, a not-for-profit, pay-as-you-can retail experience, using repurposed garments to support those in need. Koha Apparel have a pop-up in Papamoa and they’re expanding into Tauranga, too. Find out more about this amazing initiative below, and get in touch with Charli if you can volunteer your time at one of their pop ups.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do:
Up until a month ago I worked full time as a producer at icebreaker, producing seasonal location and e-com photoshoots and any other brand assets which were needed throughout the season. Koha Apparel was a side passion, which over the years has become way more than this. This led me to leave icebreaker full time and focus my energy solely (mostly) to Koha and see how many more people throughout Aotearoa we can reach, especially in the lead up to winter.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
Essex, Ibiza, Sydney, South East Asia, Auckland.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
Currently I am between Auckland and Wellington due to our recent expansion which is a total different change of pace and scene for me. The majority of my days are being spent in Wellington setting up Koha Apparel which involves finding a storage/hub space, making connections with people and businesses, trying to create a steady supply chain of clothing donations and finding the right community groups to collaborate with, to ensure that donations are passed on to our communities who need us the most.
Tell us about the kaupapa behind Koha Apparel.
I believe the social connection is a huge part of what we do at Koha. While our main mission is to bring people together in our community from all walks of life, to access a basic human need and right- clothing. Creating space for these interactions and conversations can potentially change someone’s day or week for the better. Everyone should feel good about what they wear each day for the day ahead. We’re providing a service to our community where our customers can feel welcomed and safe. Koha’s mission is to create equality no matter your gender, beliefs or sexuality . Our community at each of our pop-ups have become friends of mine and the connection runs much deeper than just providing clothing. I look forward to every pop-up we run and am providing this service for both the better of our people, but also the better of me.
How did Koha Apparel come to be?
I was born in the UK where you cannot ignore how devastating homelessness is and when moving to New Zealand I realised it was no different. In 2016 I arrived here and started volunteering at an op shop. It was here that I realised the inequalities of access to quality clothing and I recognised that there was an opportunity to change this. I began rescuing and repairing clothing from the op shop that would otherwise be destined for clothing bins and eventually landfill. This is ultimately what led to me starting Koha in January 2019. Clothing poverty is so overlooked, it comes after food and shelter. Improved access has been a long term mission since starting Koha; to have a much broader reach.
What support does Koha Apparel need from us in the Bay of Plenty? How can we help?
Great timing as this month (June) we are trialing a new pop-up alongside Under The Stars community meal. We are hoping to expand our pop-ups outside of Papamoa and pick up Tauranga once a month as well. We are always in need of volunteers to volunteer at our pop-ups. Spreading the word on our mission is also invaluable to us, letting people know where to find us and when if you think they could benefit from our service.
What music was present and still memorable from your youth/adolescence?
Old school R&B, it gets me going every time.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
At the start of Pride last year I had the honour of attending the Rurangi premier. It was one of the best films I’ve watched in a long time. It touches on real life issues including mental health, race and sexuality right here in Aotearoa. If you haven’t seen it already, you most definitely should.
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Follow your dream and remember what is important to you. You are ever evolving and learning as a person and make sure this is a focus for you long term. Invest your time, skills and values into the right brand. A brand that is making a positive impact and ensures you are not adding to the detriment of what is happening today. Never compromise on what’s important to you, it will not fulfil you in the long run.
What is your dream of happiness?
A world of equality, a world where Koha Apparel doesn’t need to exist anymore. I dream of a world where our service is no longer needed as clothing should be a basic human right available to everybody. I dream of a world where clothing is not produced as it is today. For the better of our planet, and our people in the fashion industry.
Explore and connect with creative people, groups & spaces in Tauranga and Western BOP