BEHIND THE SCENES - FALL EDITION
Hey Oi Fam! Welcome back to those of you who have been following our Behind The Scenes series, and a massive welcome if you’re new to it. Whether that’s by accident or intrigue, we’re so happy to have you here! My name is David, I’m the Founder of OutsideIn which I started all the way back in December 2016. Right from the start, I had one sole mission in mind: To use fashion to help give back to those experiencing homelessness.
Since the very beginning, it’s been a whirlwind of a journey! We’ve seen OutsideIn reach places both near and far, and over the last 4 years we’ve been able to distribute over 60,000 giving products (including clothing, blankets, meals and more) to more than 36 countries and over 200 cities. And want to know the best bit? We are only just getting started.
I personally want to say thank you to everyone who has been on the journey with us. None of this would be possible without your amazing support and your belief in our vision that together, we can help bring those on the Outside of society In.
So, here’s a sneak peek of what happens behind the scenes at OutsideIn, enjoy!
The Centenary House revamp and the people who made it happen💙
This is by far the biggest project we have taken on to-date. Being a Belfast-based company on a mission to change the world, we wanted to create a collection that inspired people to dream - big, bold and brave! For us, this meant that the social impact side of the collection had to embody the same mindset. We asked ourselves the question: How do we inspire people experiencing homelessness that, no matter the state of their present circumstances, they have every right to dream again?
One of the organisations that we have continued to support over the past few years is the Centenary House in Belfast. Centenary House is an accommodation centre for men who are experiencing homelessness. I’ve visited them many times and each time I find myself more and more impressed and encouraged by the work that they are doing in the lives of these men. When we started the Dream Collection, I knew that working with Centenary House presented the perfect opportunity to do something a little different in order to make a big difference.
We committed to completely renovating their communal space and to transform it into a space where I, you and anyone would love to chill out, read a book or simply watch TV. While the national lockdown has definitely thrown a few spanners in the works, Ben and Marty who work at Centenary House have been incredible. In fact, they’ve even had help from some of their guests in building the furniture, painting the walls and pulling all the tiny details together. With one goal in mind, they’ve created a team and what I love most about a team is that it creates a sense of purpose, of belonging, and of vision. This project is so much more than something that has just been done for the guests at Centenary House, but it is a project that’s been achieved by them. They can and should feel so proud of what they’ve created.
Below are a few updates on how the room has been transformed (and soon we’ll be adding Christmas decorations too!):
I couldn’t possibly leave out a few local individuals who have been incredibly generous. Firstly, Barry from The Range in Ballymena. Barry has gone above and beyond to provide us with the very best of supplies. From amazing sofas to incredible shelving units, we would not have been able to dream as big if it wasn’t for Barry’s help. Then there’s the legend that is Ricardo. Ricardo is the creative genius who created a stunning piece of work to reflect our goal of inspiring the men at Centenary House to dream again and to believe, truly believe, that their current circumstances are not their final destination. And none of this would have been possible without Sophie. Sophie is an interior designer who reached out to us generously transformed the space into something remarkable with her interior design expertise. We are so grateful for Barry, Ricardo and Sophie who truly took this special project to a new level.
And finally, a massive thank you to all of you who purchased something from this collection. Every single purchase helped to make this project a reality, and, because of you, this space has been transformed into something truly remarkable. Our hope is that this new space helps those experiencing homelessness to truly know their worth, their purpose and to have the courage to continue to dream.
Wear One, Share One is back!
You heard it here first! As most of you know, when the pandemic hit we decided that in order to protect both our customers and our vulnerable friends, we needed to adapt our giving model. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wear One, Share One, it is a concept I created when we first started the company back in 2016. Through it, I wanted to change the negative perceptions around homelessness by challenging people to stop and say hello to those living on our streets. I knew that all it took to make an impact was one conversation and one individual willing to look on the outside. This thought led to a concept we like to call “Wear One, Share One”. And yes, it is as simple as it sounds.
It works like this: With every purchase you make at OutsideIn, we provide an additional item for someone experiencing homelessness. Before the pandemic, the customer would receive this additional item to give to someone experiencing homelessness in their own sphere of influence; however, as times have changed we now give this additional item on behalf of you. To do this, we partner with a range of charities who help those experiencing homelessness.
When we launched this idea it was seen as crazy with many comments like, “Wait you want me to give this out?”, or, “You trust me to do that?”.
From the start, I wanted our customers to feel empowered and excited to be a part of the giving process. By giving them the challenge of getting to know someone who they might usually walk past and consider a complete stranger, we’ve been able to create a movement of sorts that has created a wave of recognition and human-to-human connection.
Through this simple concept, we have heard countless stories of how this model has helped to establish a sense of humanity, value and compassion; both in the individuals giving the additional products as well as the individuals experiencing homelessness.
While this direct exchange has had to stop, the giving certainly hasn't. Through partnering with charities and adapting the Share One aspect of this model, we have been able to help thousands of individuals. We’ve also been able to expand our means of giving, and this year alone we’ve given items such as beanies, socks, gloves, hot meals, wash bags, essential hygiene items, as well as other forms of giving such as renovation projects and fundraising.
We’ve seen so many incredible things come out of this pivot; however, as soon as we can, you can bet on it that we’ll be back to giving our customers a slice of the giving action!
This Christmas we will be supporting multiple charities through our Wear One, Share One model and we are so excited to be able to provide them with essential items such as beanies, socks and gloves - often the most requested items from charities due to their simple but often neglected necessity! Although we aren’t able to give you the option of giving them out yourselves right now, we will make sure to show you exactly where we have given to and how your purchases have made a difference. Stay tuned!
Bigger dreams, bigger spaces!
This time last year we were REALLY stretching the capacity of our 1,000 sq. ft. office/warehouse. Spoiler alert - it was not easy. I remember having to tilt my screen’s camera to ridiculous angles so that each time I was on an important meeting call, those on the other side wouldn’t see our 5 sewing machines at full speed ahead, or having to remain on mute for 99% of those calls so that the sound of said sewing machines wouldn’t overtake whoever was speaking. Not to mention a thousand other noises including squeaky doors, other calls, microwaves, sneezes, pen tapping… you get the picture. In short, it was a bit of a nightmare.
However, following some incredible growth over the last year, we have been able to move from one 1,000 sq. ft. office to 3 offices and 3 warehouses spread across 3,500 sq. ft. This has been a monumental upgrade and an incredible blessing to our team - especially during this lockdown where it has allowed us the necessary space to be safely distanced. It’s given us the ability to continue on as normal with our machinery at full operation as well as giving each team the space to think, create, work and still enjoy the community of their fellow Oi-workers.
I’ve always wanted OutsideIn to be a place where people actually genuinely enjoy coming into work each day. Every bit of the often crazy and sometimes stressful purpose-filled work we do is handled so well by our team. I really believe that comes down to the environment we all contribute to creating. We work hard but we have fun - a lot of it! We’re not just colleagues, we’re family.
Winter has arrived!
Last week (18th November 2020) we dropped our first Winter Collection of the year. We had so much fun creating this collection as it was one that really took us back to the drawing board and gave us a blank canvas to do something we’ve never done before. It’s been a rollercoaster of ups and downs but we got there in the end! At the start of this year, Christabel (our Head of Fashion) and I visited London’s SVP for ethical fashion manufacturers. There, we met a woman named May who runs a factory in China that specialises in knitwear. We loved what her factory produces and she loved our vision and the rest is history.
Following our initial conversation with May, we began working with focus groups, doing research, speaking to charities and establishing a stronger understanding of what was needed to improve our beanies and our pom-poms. After hundreds of design variations, colours and what felt like a million hours of ironing out every single detail, we finally sent the designs off for manufacturing. After a lot of hard work, two weeks ago we were finally able to launch this collection with so much pride (and relief!). We are so happy with the result and as you can see, the products look phenomenal!
However, it’s not how they look that excites me most but rather the impact they will have. Social Impact will always be the part that really gets me excited. Within this collection we have launched three new and improved giving beanies. They come in three colour variations, each with thermal properties and a special message attached. The colours have their own individual meaning and each product comes with a Tag of Hope which is attached to inspire, encourage and place value on whoever is wearing it.
Our Social Impact team has been working hard behind the scenes to prep these so that they’re ready to go to our special charity partners throughout the Christmas season. Christmas is a time filled with joy and excitement for many individuals like you and me; however, this Christmas we want to ensure these feelings are extended to those on the outside so that they too can feel the same joy that comes with this season.
With these new products we’re confident that no matter who is wearing them, they will feel valued and loved because of the work that has gone into making them perfect. Brand new, well-made, and filled with hope, these Giving Beanies are something special for someone special.
This is why this collection means so much to me personally and our team who have worked so hard to make it happen. It’s so encouraging for me to see OutsideIn grow, not just in company size but in giving ability too. I am constantly challenged to improve, improve, improve! In both what we do and how we give. Especially how we give. It’s at the heart of OutsideIn and it inspires every item of clothing we create. I love to ask myself, my team, and our customers the question: Are you willing to wear a brand that is also proudly worn by someone experiencing homelessness?
This question challenges me daily to continue to push boundaries in breaking down the negative perceptions of homelessness and showing that, no matter where you are in life, we are all human. We are all worthy. We are all special. We are all someone.
World Giving Day
To be completely honest with you, I never knew that this day existed until this year. When we sat down as a team to talk about Black Friday and how we could create an OutsideIn way of doing it, this day popped up in conversation. World Giving Day, or otherwise known as Giving Tuesday, is a day dedicated to giving back following the Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness. Instead of offering crazy discounts, we wanted to make a crazy difference.
And so, we decided to focus on World Giving Day and use it as an opportunity to give back in a way that challenged and inspired other businesses to do the same.
To kickstart this, our Marketing Department got thinking and started to pull together some great ideas. One of our London-based team members, Alexia, told us about a charity called the Soup Kitchen. The Soup Kitchen is an amazing organisation run by Director Alex Brown, and led by Chef Lauren Everet. Together with their team of volunteers, they feed over 160 vulnerable individuals each day. Now when I say feed, I mean FEED. This amazing team goes way above and far beyond to create incredible restaurant quality and nourishing meals for each guest who comes their way. Some of their dishes include grilled salmon, roast beef, ragus and rataoulies, and so much more! They create meals that they themselves would want to eat. Meals made with love, meals made with high-quality ingredients and meals made with an intention to bring value to whoever is eating them. For us to get involved was a total no-brainer.
We immediately arranged to meet Alex so that we could hear more about the Soup Kitchen and the heart behind why they do what they do in the way they do it. Alex mentioned to us that since the pandemic, their numbers have skyrocketed due to the influx of individuals experiencing homelessness as well as the fact that they are one of only two soup kitchens that remained open.
We knew that in order to help this organisation as much as we hoped to, we would need a powerhouse team.
With the Soup Kitchen on our side, we decided to approach another partner who would be able to come up with a recipe that would be tasty, filling and nourishing. There’s nothing quite like a hot, lovingly cooked meal to make you feel valued so this partner had to be special. We thought long and hard and finally decided to try our luck with one particularly creative and brilliant individual - Will Hughes, or who you may know better as What Willy Cook.
Will is an incredibly talented 24 year-old chef who is taking over social media by a cooking storm! We approached Will and asked him to create a recipe that could be used to serve those who would attend the Soup Kitchen as well as be the face (literally) of this campaign.
Once Will was on board we began the next phase of our plan: Fundraising. To do this, we decided to do what we know best - fashion. We started working on a line of limited-edition collaboration merch of which 100% of profits would be donated to the Soup Kitchen. Our Fashion Team quickly began working on bringing this idea to life and the final result is better than we could have dreamed!
In addition to this, we added a donation button to our page where customers could choose to donate funds directly to the Soup Kitchen. On top of this, we also committed to providing 200 pairs of socks and 200 beanies to be distributed among the guests who attend the kitchen on Friday, 4th December. On this day, OutsideIn and Will Hughes will be attending the kitchen to cook for these guests and give the Soup Kitchen a hand.
I’m unbelievably excited for this collaboration and so grateful to have Will on board. Both Will and Alex have been so generous with their time and expertise not to mention the multiple Zoom calls it has taken to make this happen.
Shout-out to the Ops Team ✌️
With no Christmas Market to attend this year in Belfast, we have become a solely online company - meaning an INSANE amount of traffic coming through our website each day.
Our Operations Team has been amazing during the unprecedented busyness of this season. The brilliant Louis and Dani have been packaging your orders over the last few months and we would not have coped without all their hard work.
I’m giving these guys a special shout-out. Since Louis joined us last year, he has completely transformed our warehouses, created new systems and in general, he has made the entire process notably smoother. Just this week, Louis and Dani hit a record number of packages packed in one day. They packaged 547 OutsideIn orders which is no small feat! So, well done, Louis and Dani! You both deserve a medal (and a break!).
Thank You Oi Fam!
And last but certainly not least, a huge thank you to everyone who has continued to support us this year, especially as we approach Christmas. Amid all the ups and downs of 2020, your support has allowed us to continue to do what we do and most importantly, it has allowed us to continue to give back to those who need it most.
Thank you SO much for supporting your local (or worldwide for all our worldwide followers!). It means the world to us.
So, that’s a wrap for this Behind The Scenes blog, and as you can see, there’s never a dull moment with the OutsideIn team! We are so thankful for you and for your support in helping us give back to so many people in the UK, Ireland and the USA over the past year.
The year isn’t quite over yet so keep your eyes peeled for some exciting things coming your way… Follow us on our socials and our website to never miss a beat!
Thanks for reading, thanks for supporting, and thanks for bringing the OutsideIn. See you all soon and stay safe.