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Living room factory

T-dress samples

T-dress samples


Amihude, Hellner & Abrams -Three Winnipeg Women make one-of-a-kind clothing with a past and a future with Meme* Clothing Company

by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng., November 7, 2012

Ethel Amihude, Faye Hellner and Reeva Abrams have started an interesting little business called Meme* Clothing Company where they re-cycle gently used T-shirts and turn them into one-of-a-kind children's clothing.  Meme is the cultural equivalent of a gene; memes are the way that habits, traditions and dress get passed down from generation to generation.

Currently they are producing T-dresses (little girls’ dresses made from recycled T-shirts). The designs are original and contemporary. As the orders come in, they are trying hard to keep up with the demand. Amihude and Hellner have a small “factory” going on in their living rooms.

They will showcase their “wears” at the Tarbut Festival of Jewish Culture Market at the Rady Community Centre on November 18 and November 25 at 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. At this market, they will accept gently used, cotton or 95% cotton T-shirts in all sizes, colours and patterns. You can receive credit for useable T-shirts that can be put toward dress purchases.

Hellner says, “The T-dresses have been selling very quickly - prices are $35 to $40. Each dress is unique - we spend a lot of time mixing and matching the various T-shirt colours and patterns and then creating designs suitable for babies, toddlers and young girls. The adult, maternity and memory clothing are priced a little higher.”

Their ultimate goal is to run a re-cycling business along with the design and production business. People will be able to bring in old T-shirts to get credit towards new clothing. Besides T-Dresses, they have designs for T for Two dresses (maternity), T-Rousers (very cute boys’ and girls’ pants), T-Bags (purses) and T-ooks (hats). Everything is cotton, in lovely condition (washed before and after production) and really soft and comfortable.

There will also be a custom part of the business called Memory Clothing where items will be re-made from loved one’s clothing. They will re-use these items to make children's clothing, blankets, dresses, and tablecloths.

Hellner’s inspiration to start this business came from her grandfather. Two generation ago, her grandfather Itzhak Kettner had a similar business called Adanac with his son-in-law Robby Ostrove. Farmers could send in their rags, old sheets, towels, socks, clothing, etc. which Kettner then sold as dusters and chamois to companies that needed rags. Kettner also ran a mail-order business selling new household linens, socks, blankets etc. People that had sent in their rags received discounted prices. It was probably one of the first “green” businesses.

Reeva Abrams who is a software developer and a whiz with numbers, is their business advisor. Abrams, Amihude, and Hellner have been friends for 55 years.

Amihude has been a kindergarten teacher for 40 years. She has taught two generations of Winnipeg's children and loves kids. Hellner taught design at the Faculty of Architecture at U of M for 25 years. They learnt how to sew 55 years ago at Luxton School in Grade 8 and have been sewing ever since. They also love finding treasures at second hand stores. They began by making a few dresses for their grandchildren. Once the girls wore the T-dresses, there was interest from others.

Abrams, Amihude and Hellner will all be 70 next year and they don’t let that stop them. They all love creating things – especially making “Something from Nothing”. Amihude and Hellner are having a great time, haunting second hand stores, designing, and sewing the clothing. They are contributing a percentage of their profits to charity.

For more information, contact Faye Hellner at [email protected]

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