Kekno Klambimu: Donate Your Textile Waste to be Upcycled Into Useful Stuff

This feature article is a part of Waste4Change’s initiative in reviewing and introducing some communities/organizations/startups in the field of minimizing and/managing waste, introducing sustainable lifestyles, as well as encouraging the public to be a responsible and conscious consumer.

Textile waste is one type of waste that is still difficult to be recycled (also known as residual waste) here in Waste4Change. Consequently, we strongly advised that textile waste be upcycled into more useful stuff. In order to support solutions for all kinds of waste, Waste4Change would like to appreciate and acknowledge communities and other organizations who managed to find ways to process disposed clothes and other types of textile waste that are still difficult to be recycled, one of which is Kekno Klambimu 

Kekno Klambimu, a phrase derived from the Javanese language meaning “Give Your Clothes”, is a social movement that accepts donations in the form of textile waste or clothes that are no longer wearable to be upcycled into new and useful things. 

Kekno Klambimu’s Dropbox

Earlier in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and Indonesia,  Waste4Change had the opportunity to meet with Cherlita as the Founder of Kekno Klambimu in order to know more about the story behind Kekno Klambimu. 

Let’s get straight into the full interview between Waste4Change and Kekno Klambimu below:  

Can you please explain a little about the foundation of Kekno Klambimu, what are its stories and how is it founded?

The concept behind Kekno Klambimu started out as a topic for my thesis as a prerequisite for me to graduate from university. Before I proposed this concept, I have tried proposing several other topics and titles, around 8 of them, all of which are denied. It was back in 2019. 

Then I volunteered in one of the social service programs from my university as a photographer. Back then the program took place in Jambangan Village, a village in Surabaya that is renowned as a green village. That was where I met with a small and medium enterprise (SME) called Perca Ayu, which later on became the main partner of Kekno Klambimu.  

Some of the women who work in processing the textile waste into new and useful stuff. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

The Perca Ayu SEM consists of housewives who process textile waste into useful stuff such as doormat. It was founded back in 2011, but they only started to make doormats in 2015. After I had a further discussion with one of the housewives, I found out that they still had problems in regards to the raw materials that they needed to buy. This was pretty ironic since there are abundant textile waste piling up in our landfills, yet these women still need to buy most of the raw materials.

Some of the women who work in processing the textile waste into new and useful stuff. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

From then on, I found an idea to bridge and connect the people who want to dispose of their unused clothes and textile waste (supply) to the Perca Ayu SME who will be able to transform those waste into valuable stuff (demand). 

What kind of issues do you want to bring up? Or what kind of paradigm that you want to change through Kekno Klambimu?

People’s awareness of textile waste. Before there was Kekno Klambimu, I felt that it was very difficult to raise people’s awareness of our consumerism lifestyle and how badly it affects the environment. However, after they read and see the contents on Kekno Klambimu’s Instagram account, they have begun to realize and think “Oh, so our over consumption will eventually end up as waste.”

Examples of textile waste. Source: www.retailbiz.com.au

Furthermore, managing Kekno Klambimu has brought an indirect impact on me and my family. My mother who likes shopping very much started to ponder, “It’s just one family, and we already bought so many clothes. It’s terrifying to think about hundreds and thousands of other families and their clothes”. As for myself, I used to buy 10 clothes annually, but now it has decreased significantly to 2 or 3 clothes a year.  

What do you think about fast fashion and humans’ consumptive lifestyles?

From the point of view of people who live in big cities, we are indeed surrounded by stores and shopping malls that provide so many choices of clothes. This certainly makes us impulsive, makes us spend more and more, be it a new model, discounted price, and many other reasons, even though we don’t really need them. It’s even worse with the existence of e-commerce. Unfortunately, if we look at the ethicalities of those clothes, we can see that there are social and environmental prices that we need to pay for a piece of clothing that we do not really need. 

Fast fashion trends have detrimental effects to the environment and the workers behind it. Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

As for myself, I told myself to always use what I and my family already have. For example, the sweater that I’m wearing now belonged to my father. When we really think about it, fashion really goes back in time. What used to be trendy in the past might eventually become trendy again in the present or even the future.

How does Kekno Klambimu process the textile waste so that it does not end up as waste? 

Kekno Klambimu partners with Perca Ayu Surabaya SME in processing the textile waste into useful stuff. The women in Perca Ayu SME still use manual sewing machines, except in making doormats since they use different methods.  

Thr process of making doormat from discarded fabrics. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

There was also a small workshop that we held during the early period of our partnership. Since my background is from design, I decided to give the housewives some basic knowledge regarding color combination, basic patterns, and many more. I also made them some handbooks to be used as a guide in creating color and patterns. 

The workshop that was held to give basic and further knowledge for the women in Perca Ayu SME Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

Moreover, I invited a speaker who was experienced enough in the field of managing textile waste. I also hoped that Perca Ayu SME can make environmentally friendly stuff such as reusable bags to replace the single-use plastic bags. 

The workshop that was held to give basic and further knowledge for the women in Perca Ayu SME Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

The response from the women are all very positive, and they are happy that they get free workshops and training. What’s more important is the fact that the housewives demonstrated great progress after they received the training and workshop. They can now make even more varied products with better design and color combination 

An example of how the doormate design and color combination has improved after the women received some trainings and workshop. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

How many volunteers/employees are involved in Kekno Klambimu’s activities?

For the Perca Ayu SME itself, there are a total of 4 housewives who actively process the textile waste into news and useful stuff. They usually work from 9 to 6 p.m in the afternoon. What I hope is that these women can also teach other women in the neighborhood, so that many more housewives and women can learn this new additional skill and perhaps even gain additional income. 

Some of the women from Perca Ayu SME who work in processing used fabrics and textile waste into new sutff. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

What kind of products can be made from textile waste? And where can people buy those products?

So far there are various products such as tote bags, sling bags, doormat, pouch, wallet cutlery, scrunchies, as well as wallets. Furthermore, during the pandemic, the women from Perca Ayu SME also made reusable cloth masks to help prevent the transmission of disease. To ensure hygiene, the clothes are washed thoroughly before and after it is made into a mask. 

For the product itself, they usually sell it by putting it in stores/bulkstore, or whenever there was an exhibition for SMEs held by the government. atau saat ada pameran UKM dari pemerintah. Kalau secara online, bisa dengan melakukan pemesanan manual ke Instagramnya @percaayu_surabaya karena memang belum dijual di e-commerce.  

How are the public response and reception regarding Kekno Klambimu’s activities and programs? 

When I first started this project, I was afraid that there will no donations at all. We had this joke of how Surabaya people were so stingy and do not like to share. However, it turns out that people are very generous in donating their clothes. The responses during the first week were overwhelmingly good. 

In addition, when I distributed some brochures about Kekno Klambimu, many people were curious about this project and reached out to me. There was even some donation from outside Java. When I opened some volunteer opportunities many people also signed up, but we haven’t opened any opportunities again since there is not yet any event. 

With whom does Kekno Klambimu ever partner/collaborated with?  

In the long term, we will collaborate with ARSY, a charity organization. To give some examples, their first project is to make dolls from denim waste, which can then be sold. They are kinda similar to Perca Ayu, in the sense that they process textile waste. 

Dolls made from upcycled textile waste, a collaboation between ARSY and Niti Mandala Foundation. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

Then there was one more partner in Surabaya, an institution that provides a safe space and rehabilitation for victims of sexual violence. One of the services they provide is in the form of art therapy. The plan was that Perca Ayu will help in stitching the materials. 

What are some of the challenges or difficulties that you stumbled upon when running and managing Kekno Klambimu?

The first and foremost might be because I was all by myself in running this project, so all the decision-making was done alone. Moreover, I also need to handle the Instagram account, inducing in creating and designing the contents. In addition, Kekno Klambimu itself was still based in Surabaya only, even though there have been many demands in the Jabodetabek area.  

Kekno Klambimu’s dropbox to drop off textile waste and clothes. Photo from Kekno Klambimu’s documentation

Not to mention the limited time that I have because I was also working full time. Fortunately, there was a 1-month blank period in which I managed to put a dropbox for textile waste in a bulk store. There are now two official drop-off points for people who want to give their textile waste, one is by sending it to Perca Ayu directly, and the other one is by dropping it off in the dropbox. We also put some doormats and other products from Perca Ayu to be sold in the bulk store, so whenever the women need to restock the products, they can also take the textile waste that was already collected in the dropbox. 

What are some of the future plans/projects for Kekno Klambimu? 

For this year, I was planning to put one more dropbox in a cafe located in central Surabaya, but I’m not sure yet. There are actually many things that I want to do. Perhaps the closest project will be with a company that has a special machine that can turn textiles into cotton, which will tremendously help to solve the problems and challenges that we are currently facing. 

Another one of my wishes is to open another branch in other cities since there have been demands too. The one in Surabaya has actually been well-structured, but I’ll wait for some time more until it becomes well-established.

In the middle of our casual interview, Cherlita also said that she was inspired by Marie Kondo and her “sparks joy” mantra in curating the clothes in her wardrobe. We might as well try curating our clothes and see which ones we use the most and which one we rarely use, you might even be surprised to know the results.

Still, it is important to remember that Kekno Klambimu only accepts clothes that can no longer be used, meaning that if your clothes are still in a good condition, then please refrain from donating it to Kekno Klambimu and give it to someone else who might need them instead. Interested enough? Find out more about their story and activities by visiting their Instagram accounts @kekno_klambimu and @percaayu_surabaya 

P.s: During the pandemic, Kekno Klambimu temporarily closes clothes donation to prevent the transmission of disease. Even so, keep yourself updated by following their Instagram accounts!

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