The Project Repat story starts in Nairobi, Kenya, where Project Repat co-founder Ross Lohr was doing non-profit education work. After sitting in traffic for 2 hours, he discovered the cause of the jam: an overturned fruit and vegetable rickshaw pushed by a Kenyan man wearing a t-shirt that said “I Danced My Ass Off at Josh’s Bar Mitzvah;”
Amazed by all the incredible t-shirts that get sold off and sent overseas by non-profit and for-profit companies in America, we began working with Kenyan artisans to design new products out of castaway t-shirts, including bags, scarves, and re-fabricated t-shirts. Those products were “repatriated” (or returned to the country of origin) back to the United States and sold to raise money for non-profits working in East Africa.
When trying to sell our upcycled products at markets in Boston, we quickly discovered the difference between a “good idea” and a real business: while potential customers liked the idea of a repatriated upcycled t-shirt bag, they didn’t like it enough to actually buy it. What customers did ask for, time and time again, was an affordable t-shirt quilt.
We had heard enough: instead of shipping goods all around the country, why not create fair wage jobs in the United States and create a product that has a lot of meaning for customers? As they say, the rest is history. Rather than ‘repatriating’ t-shirts back to the United States, Project Repat creates a high quality, affordable t-shirt quilt with minimal carbon impact that ‘repatriates’ textile job back to the United States.