Second act

Old saris get a new life in a powerhouse collaboration.

Sari for Change, a foundation dedicated to empowering unemployed women and promoting sustainability by upcycling old saris into stunning new one-of-a-kind dresses, recently partnered with major South African retailer Pick n Pay on a limited-edition range of wrap dresses.


Each dress embodies a story of renewal and uniqueness, as it is crafted from a single donated sari carrying its individual heritage. Available in a kaleidoscope of colours, the multi-wear wrap dresses were designed with modesty in mind in anticipation of a season of religious holidays. With only 200 dresses made, these exclusive pieces went on sale at Pick n Pay clothing stores and quickly sold out.


Speaking on the partnership with Pick n Pay, Rayana Edwards, who founded Sari for Change in 2014, commented, ‘We need to educate consumers about production processes that are kinder to the environment and understand the back story around the impact of their production.


‘This is a big step in the right direction for a big retailer, demonstrating its commitment to empowering community organisations that focus on upskilling and developing women. Every woman and indigent person employed in the programme has their own hard story, and Sari for Change brings much-needed skills and development directly to them.’


Edwards had been in the fashion industry for decades when she identified the untapped potential of the extensive fabric from an abundance of worn saris in her community.


‘Every Indian grandmother has a collection of saris stored in their back cupboards, with the hope of passing them on to the next generation. Each sari is often only worn once for a special occasion, so this presented a resource of six metres of beautiful fabric to innovate,’ explained Edwards.


Over the years, Saris for Change has repurposed more than 15 000 used and unwanted saris into new dresses, jackets, kimonos, and kaftans, and now the Pick n Pay wrap dress collection.


The organisation not only gives new life to used traditional garments but also provides essential skills and employment opportunities for women in need across Cosmo City, Yeoville, and Dobsonville in Soweto. With South Africa's unemployment rate currently standing at 32.5%, Saris for Change addresses this issue by offering programmes aimed at uplifting communities, thereby empowering individuals to earn a sustainable income.


The curriculum is designed to impart technical and entrepreneurial skills, ensuring graduates are not only more marketable for employment but also prepared to supply brands or establish their own businesses upon completion of the programme.




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