Cool Businesses Innovation

What happens to donated clothes will surprise you- this local company offers a new alternative

Darius Golkar, founder of Wovin, at Cafe Venetia in downtown Palo Alto
97% of clothing donations in the US are resold to vendors in Africa (photo by Slate.com)

97% of clothing donated in the US is resold to vendors in Africa (photo by Slate.com)

The truth about donated and discarded clothing

Consider these startling numbers about donated clothing in the United States:

  • Only 3% of all clothing donated to organizations like the Goodwill and Salvation Army is reused locally.
  • 97% of donated clothing is bundled and resold to vendors in the developing world, mostly in Africa.
  • These vendors mark up the clothing by up to 1,000 times the purchase price, making a pair of used jeans cost 2-3 days’ wages in many countries.
  • The sale of imported, donated clothes is a $3 billion industry that has contributed to the decline of local textile manufacturing in Africa.

….And for the clothes that are simply thrown away, these discarded textiles could fill 2 million shipping containers each year.

Enter Wovin, a Palo Alto-based organization looking to ‘disrupt’ the clothing donation business

Darius Golkar, founder of Wovin, at Cafe Venetia in downtown Palo Alto

Darius Golkar, founder of Wovin, at Cafe Venetia in downtown Palo Alto (photo by Palo Alto Pulse)

Local entrepreneur Darius Golkar, the founder of Palo Alto-based Wovin, wants to change these numbers by creating new ways to reuse, resell and recycle textiles that will create jobs, increase the value of used clothing and keep discarded textiles out of the landfill.

Wovin.org, which just began in 2015, offers an alternative to traditional clothing donation that includes a multi-level approach:

1) Home clothing pick up: Wovin will come to your house to pick up your unwanted clothing and textiles – even old socks and towels- free of charge! Just go to the Wovin website to set up a pick time.

2) Clothing sorting and recycling: Wovin sorts donated clothing, setting aside items for resale that are good enough for reuse, and arranging to recycle the rest.

3) Clothing resale for charity: Wovin is partnering with local nonprofits to resell clothing as a fundraising strategy, looking for ways to get more value from donated goods locally where possible.

4) Repurposing old textiles: Wovin also hires local artists to help create greeting cards made out of old textiles, which are available for sale online or at Letter Perfect on University Avenue and Village Stationer on California Avenue.

Wovin’s founder has a passion for finding entrepreneurial solutions 

A dedicated entrepreneur who started and sold a start up called 3bubbles, Darius is fascinated by the intersection of creative thinking and desire to make

Cards made by Wovin using discarded textiles are selling briskly at Letter Perfect and Village Stationer

Cards made by Wovin using discarded textiles are selling briskly at Letter Perfect and Village Stationer (photo by Palo Alto Pulse)

a difference that informs the world of social entrepreneurs.

Darius co-founded a nonprofit called New Scholars that helped Sudanese refugees start businesses through “entrepreneurial safaris,” where Western mentors were paired with promising young people. During one of these safaris, Darius met a young man who proposed making low cost school uniforms in Turkey for children in the Sudan. When he inquired why this operation wasn’t being proposed for Africa, Darius learned that the local textile industry had been largely gutted by imports of donated clothing from the United States and other Western countries.

After seeing the impact of donated clothing in Africa, Darius became convinced there had to be a better way to both resell unwanted clothes and increase the rate of recycling for discarded textiles.

Wovin’s vision: start in Palo Alto and expand outward 

Darius lives with his wife and young daughter near downtown Palo Alto, which he sees as a perfect place to start Wovin, as there are so many people here with expertise in solving social problems through innovative ideas.

Although it just launched a few months ago, Wovin is already gaining traction, with the average clothing donation weighing in at 70lbs and enough revenue from clothing resale and recycling to more than cover costs. While Wovin is still in its beginning stage of development, Darius believes there is huge untapped potential.

“Traditional organizations are overwhelmed by the volume of discarded textiles,” Darius said. “Goodwill and Salvation Army do use the proceeds from their clothing sales to fund job training and other poverty alleviation programs, there is no incentive to for these organizations to deal with with the environmental impact of the massive amount of discarded clothing that ends up in landfills every year. This is where we think Wovin can make a difference.”

Decluttering is all the rage, and with Wovin, you can not only pare down your belongings, but feel good about where your unwanted clothing will go.

wovin

 

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.

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