Mekong Quilts transforms unwanted textiles into durable cushions

As a social enterprise that exists thanks to people’s love for handmade textile, Founding Director Bernard Kervyn is no stranger to the inconvenient truths that looms over the industry.

“Almost 85% of disposed wearables end up in landfills, where it could take up to 200 years to decompose,” he reminded.

The fashion industry purportedly creates 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. It also uses a hefty amount of water, while textile production also creates discharge that pollutes rivers and streams.

“85% of old, wanted textiles go to the dump each year. [And] washing some types of [synthetic] clothing sends microparticles into the ocean!” He added.


Making waste fabric beautiful again

Not too long ago an international furniture conglomerate reached out to Mekong Quilts with a proposal—waste fabrics would be given to Mekong Quilts without charge to be refabricated into handcrafted cushions.


A pair of pillows covered by Mekong Quilts’ handcrafted cushions


“They contacted us to see whether we can make good use of unused fabrics. In return, they would buy the completed products from us,” Bernard exclaimed.

As a leading player in the global outdoor furniture industry concerned with both environmental and social impact, the joint venture proved to be a win-win collaboration that would create employment for Mekong Quilt’s craftswomen and at the same time revitalise otherwise ‘useless’ waste material into marketable items.


A women artisan from Mekong Quilts, working on a quilt


“Some people call it minimalist!”


Thanks to high-grade textile Weather-Tex™ which boasts a strong dye retention ability and resistance to all kinds of weather and UV radiation, Mekong Quilts began work on designing a series of outdoor-centric cushions inspired by Scandinavian design principles, a minimalist approach, and cues borrowed from Kantha embroidery that is native to Bangladesh and several other countries in South Asia.


“We received nearly two tons of fabric and proceeded with the proposed designs. Our counterparts in Europe liked [the designs] very much.”

With most expenses revolving around labour and logistics, Bernard foresees that the finished products will be priced very competitively.

“Customers will soon be able to buy these cushions online soon once we can export the cushions [out of Vietnam],” he informed.


Surviving the pandemic by changing


Ultimately, such endeavours symbolise Mekong Quilts devotion to change that was sparked by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Vietnam sees a glimmer of hope in its pandemic control efforts, several of Mekong Quilts commercial and community activities have resumed.

“Our bamboo bicycle tours are resuming in Ho Chi Minh City and production at our workshops is resuming [as well],” Bernard remarked while reminding that anyone interested should follow Mekong Quilts for the latest updates of upcoming cycling tours where the public can explore Saigon’s remaining green sanctuaries on Mekong Quilts’ signature bamboo bicycles.


A few Sundays per month, Mekong Quilts organizes a bicycle tour in greener parts of Ho Chi Minh City


The team unanimously agrees that it is vital for Mekong Quilts to re-invent itself even if the pandemic ends. Quilts may form the main product line-up at the social enterprise, but creating and innovating provides more work for its craftswomen.

At the time of the publication of this blog article, Mekong Quilts’ designers are also working on a brand new series of quilted coats which are joyfully coloured.


One of the new colourful quilted coats by Mekong Quilts


If you’d like to support Mekong Quilts and its beneficiaries, visit the website for the latest product launches and to find out more about how Mekong Quilts is eliminating poverty in the delta.

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