Despite Melbourne’s increasingly grim retail landscape, a little-known clothing brand and social-enterprise is defying the odds. PVBS is not only generating significant profits, it’s using them to fund education and food projects overseas.
When Ghana-born Eric Agyeman returned to the country of his forbearers as a teenager in 2005, it was the first time he could conceive the true scale of poverty that plagued the country. This experience ignited his desire to make a difference. Four years later, he created PVBS.
Since starting in 2009, the social enterprise, which produces men's, women's and kidswear, has donated more than $20,300 to projects in Ghana and Cambodia, helped to feed and educate more than 1450 children and built two schools.
“I’ve always loved fashion and designing, so PVBS was really a combination of that passion with my desire to help others,” he says.
Despite the label’s extraordinary success caring for those in developing countries, when he heard about his wife’s reliance on food agencies as a young asylum seeker new to Australia, Agyeman decided to focus the organisation’s efforts closer to home.
“For the first five years my wife’s family was in Australia they relied on food agencies. Even at Christmas they had to resort to donated food, clothes and presents,” Agyeman says. “This conversation made me really want PVBS to start addressing the issue of poverty on a local scale.”
One month ago, PVBS launched joint initiative Hungry 4 Change with Foodbank, a not-for-profit organisation that distributes meals to charities and community groups which feed hungry Australians. For each item of clothing sold as part of the collaboration, four meals are donated to Victorians in need.
Despite Melbourne receiving the title of World’s Most Livable City, Foodbank statistics say one in 10 people in the city struggle to put food on the table each night. According to Agyeman, “Poverty exists everywhere.”
“Even though people don’t notice, there are so many disadvantaged people in Melbourne.” But I think PVBS can definitely help many of these people improve their situation,” he says.
Though only operational for a month, Hungry 4 Change has seen Foodbank donate more than 500 meals, making Agyeman’s goal of 5000 meals by the end of the year seem well within reach.
To learn more or contribute to the campaign, head to www.pvbs.co/hungry-4-change.