It’s all about love hearts on Valentine’s Day. Here at PUSS PUSS, we decided to look at a different kind of heart, namely Cats With a Heart, a charitable company that aims at raising awareness and funds to discourage child labour in the fashion industry. We caught up with its founder Carmen Perez Pineda to to find out more.
How did Cats With a Heart start?
It was a buildup of ideas and thoughts. Working in fashion for the last 12 years, I’ve seen how much fabric is thrown away or kept unused by fashion labels. I was also doing those cat shaped plush toys for a long time as presents for my friends’ newborn babies who loved them and encouraged me to sell them. However I didn’t want to set up a business just to sell plush cats, I wanted to give back and create a socially responsible business. I decided to support a cause that I have always been very touched by: children unfairly suffering and being deprived of childhood and freedom. Unfortunately, millions of those children are part of the fashion supply chain. So I decided to make the cat toys from leftover fabrics and support a great cause! And that’s how Cats With a Heart was born – with a cute product made of waste that supports the eradication of child labour within the fashion industry.
What made you choose the cat as a shape for the toy?
To me, cats represent loving yet independent creatures. Our aim is to make children in need feel loved and protected as the basis for their education and development to become independent adults.
Please tell us about your partner organisations, Global March and Bachpan Bachao Andolan?
Both organisations are long-term partners with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF. Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), founded in 1980 by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi symbolises India’s largest grassroots movement for the protection of children, ensuring their quality education and helping them re-establish trust in society and to find a positive future for themselves. BBA has led the world’s largest civil society campaign in the form of the Global March Against Child Labour and has been at the forefront of laying down laws against child labour and trafficking in countries where children have no rights. They are doing impressive work towards creating a child friendly society, where all children are free from exploitation and receive free high quality education.
What has been the biggest challenge for you moving from fashion marketing to setting up a charitable company?
I am still doing consulting and my job consists of helping brands develop a new line or improve an existing one. I knew that Cats With a Heart had to have a unique element, something to engage not only customers, but designers too. My previous experience has been of great help, even though it’s easier to advise other people than yourself, you are not that objective anymore and get more emotionally attached.
There are more and more designers working in a sustainable way and getting involved in politics, such as Vivienne Westwood for example, have you seen a change in that direction since starting your career in fashion?
I have seen a more sensible approach to what we wear, how clothes are made, new materials and support for artisan communities. Perhaps as a reaction to the proliferation of fast fashion, much like the growing consumption of organic food as a response to fast food. We have documentaries like True Cost, companies like Eco-Age, a brand consultancy that helps businesses become sustainable. We have Fash-Rev, encouraging customers to ask brands who made their clothes. Whether it’s just another marketing tactic or true concern about social responsibility, the environment or human rights, it’s definitely an amazing shift in the fashion industry that is here to stay and hopefully will trickle down to the mass market.
What designers have you collaborated with?
London based designer Emilio de la Morena was our first supporter, Reformation in LA provide us not only with fabrics, but also with materials we use as stuffing for the cats. Cerre, another LA based label donates leather that we use to make cats and all our labels.
What will be the next collaboration?
There are some amazing designers about to be part of the Cats With a Heart family. We are very excited to announce our new collaborators Claire Barrow, Danielle Romeril and Mary Benson from London and Resurrection from Seoul.
What else would you like to share with our readers?
We donate 50% of our profits and our current goal is to create a permanent production space, teaching sewing skills to unemployed women whilst paying them substantially more than the minimum wage. Cats With a Heart also makes cats with fabrics we buy all around the world, mainly fairtrade fabrics that support artisanal communities. Each Cats With a Heart toy has a small heart inserted during production so you can physically feel it through the outside fabric and it reminds you that with that purchase you are touching someone’s heart too.
You can get your Cat With a Heart and support a great cause here: catswithaheart.com