Clothing Exchange a great boost for unemployed women

Support for long-term unemployed women throughout the Yarra Ranges and beyond has received a massive boost following the official opening of First Impressions Clothing Exchange at Mooroolbark in September.

A Cire-driven project, First Impressions offers quality and affordable women’s clothing and accessories suitable for job interviews and other important occasions. Equally important are the skills sought by employers and overall support gained by the volunteers who operate the project.

Clothing Exchange a great boost for unemployed womenThe exchange was the ‘brainchild’ of participants in the Women’s Warehouse Essentials pre-accredited program at Cire Training which aims to upskill and foster confidence in long-term unemployed women.

Currently located at Mooroolbark Terrace Shopping Centre, it is operated as a small business/social enterprise by women, and for women. Items can be purchased or simply hired to get the look, to get the job!

First Impressions is a dedicated real-life training space, mentoring women to standClothing Exchange a great boost for unemployed women tall by preparing them for employment. Experienced trainers provide ongoing support to instil confidence and develop the skills necessary in the paid workforce, and transferable between jobs, as well as overall support. Some of the tangible benefits include project management/store management/retail skills/merchandising, sewing, design, and customer service/communication.

Since its ‘soft’ opening in August, two women have found employment largely based on their involvement in helping set up First Impressions.

Adding to these inspiring success stories, Cire has secured a work-for-the-dole partnership with local job provider, Employment Plus, to help create opportunities for participants to gain lifelong employability skills, assisting the transition toward sustainable employment. Through the partnership, participants gain recognised hands-on work experience within a real work-like environment.

Employment Plus, estimates there are about 1205 unemployed women on their books throughout the Yarra Ranges. Employment Plus is just one of the job providers in the region so the actual number of unemployed women is much higher.

Another strong supporter is Voices of Women (VoW), a not-for-profit organisation based in the Yarra Valley that provides advocacy for women in the region ensuring their voices are heard in matters which concern them. VoW’s vision is for a society where women are safe, respected, valued, informed, empowered and free to make genuine choices in their lives. First Impressions directly aligns with VoW’s philosophy by supporting women re-entering or entering the workforce for the first time, and assisting them to boost their confidence and self-esteem and increase motivation and energy.

First Impressions has a sustainability and environmentally friendly footprint, with items being donated, recycled and reused, supporting sustainable and regenerative practices such as the circular economy and fair trade.

Thanks to the flexibility of a Mooroolbark Artist in Residence Project, First Impressions has been sharing a shop space at Mooroolbark. Cire is actively seeking financial support to open its own space in either Mooroolbark or Lilydale with the view of opening a second premises in Yarra Junction.

First Impressions recently received a small grant from Yarra Ranges Council to assist with shop fit-out and is featured on the Australian Women Donors Network’s project showcase.