Mobilise SMEs Again Series: Developing Skills in the Sustainable Fashion World Between the UK and Portugal

The possibility of doing a MobiliseSME matching has resurfaced with the program Mobilise SMEs Again, this time fully financed by European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME. Companies have flocked to join in a match and once again shown great interest in sending an employee abroad or receiving it from another company in another country.

The first approved exchange was between the British company Learn to Re-create, specialised in providing trainings to young professionals that want to become creators in sustainable fashion, and the Portuguese SME Vintage for a Cause, a start-up undertaking several activities: a business creating limited editions of upcycling clothes, it also provides upcycling workshops teaching participants how to reuse their worn clothes and engages in social interventions supporting women over 50 who cannot work.

The Creative Director of Learn to Re-create, Olusola McKenzie, introduced her partner to Mobilise SMEs Again, they applied together, and she visited the company in Porto for two weeks to provide technical trainings in different ways to craft sustainable clothes. She joined us, together with Helena Antonia Machado da Silva, Director of Vintage for a Cause, for a double interview where they told us more about their experience.

Dear Olusola, Dear Helena, thank you for joining us. Tell us, how did you decide to do an exchange together?

HdS: Following some recommendations from common business contacts, Learn to Re-create sent us some students for an internship in fashion design last year, and it went so well that we really decided we had to be partners and a MobiliseSME matching was the perfect opportunity to start this partnership.

OM: We indeed found a lot of synergies in our activities, but also in our values and vision. Even before the end of the internship, we had decided we wanted to continue our partnership. We tried different venues of funding, but the Mobilise SMEs Again call was perfect, it provided both a platform and funding to support us. It really is a unique enabler, I don’t think there is anything like that in Europe.

What was your objective for the exchange? What did you want to get out of it?

OM: When we decided to do an exchange together, we had already identified ways to complement each other’s businesses, and our plan for the future is really about strategic business development and growing our companies. We needed this time together to set down the basis for this to happen.

HdS: We always gain great value from exchanging our experiences, as we share values and vision, but we come from different countries and business environments. For example, thanks to Olusola, I discovered the iTechStyle Summit that took place here in Porto this year – it was extremely productive for us to be able to join this event. We engaged with great contacts that will empower our business and help it reach its goals.

How do you feel you have benefited from this experience?

HdS: Besides her advice, Olusola contribution to our skill-set was invaluable. She has made some of our patterns whilst also transferring this knowledge, which is a very technical skill and we would have been otherwise unable to develop. As a start-up, the acquisition of this knowledge is extremely precious.

OM: Learn to Re-create is a training platform, and we used this experience to expand our business. By going out of our national environment, we are now able to look at new markets. We can expand but also have learned how to transfer out training in a new context. This is very, very valuable.

Any final remarks?


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