Meet Julie Colombino-Billingham.
Founder ethical fashion brand Deux Mains, and NGO–REBUILD globally, she’s an entrepreneur and for all the right reasons.
In her efforts, Julie is successfully providing solutions to 2 problems; old tyres filling up landfill and those who’ve lost everything in the Haiti earthquake.
She’s an earthquake responder, she’s spoken at Ted X events, and oh, she’s married to SAS hardman Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham from the hit Channel 4 show, SAS: Who Dares Wins.
THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE
The 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, killing over 220,000 people, injuring 300,000 and leaving 1.5 million people without a home or a job and unable to provide for their families.
Julie and Billy deployed to Haiti not long after the earthquake as part of the relief team. This was a turning point in her career. Witnessing the devastation first-hand, Julie made plans to help those who had lost everything, and particularly to help women in the community.
Fuelled by the notion of “do less and listen more”, she spoke to local people to better understand their situation. Whilst working in the food distribution tent, a woman said to her “I don’t need a bottle of water, I need a job” and that was the message that Julie couldn’t ignore.
Ignited by the need to help those who needed it the most, Julie sold up in the USA and relocated to the island. Her brand, Deux Mains, was inspired by the strength of the Haitian people with the sole aim of creating great jobs.
“Job creation is the most dignified and sustainable way to fight poverty; it is the core of Deux Mains.”
THE START OF DEUX MAINS
What stands out about Julie’s story is that she went one step further than just providing work for the people in Haiti. She thought about how to solve another problem – tyre waste.
Deux Mains intercepts ‘beyond life’ tires before they get incinerated and redirects them to their solar-powered ‘re-purposing’ factory near Port Au Prince.
“As pioneers of the sustainable movement, we choose longevity over trends. We care deeply about the environment and the effects of manufacturing. We are so committed to responsible production that we built a factory that is 100% solar powered.”
“It’s here that the team removes the sidewalls using a Sawzall, leaving behind the sidewalls–the future sole of Deux Mains sandals,” she explains.
Even the unwanted parts of the tire are repurposed. The treads are used in building or community garden projects, and the beads are used by an artist who crafts them into beautiful art installations.
A real tribute to the circular economy.
“We produce in small batches and ensure each item is crafted to last and we source 99% of our raw materials from the island, supporting and enriching local businesses.”
Since they started on the journey, they’ve recycled more than 15,000 tires from the streets of Port Au Prince and turned them into soles for their unique sandals. All while investing over a million dollars into the local economy.
“Each pair [of sandals] saves 10KG of CO2 from being admitted into the atmosphere”, reveals Julie.
About 20 miles East of Port Au Prince, deportees and economic refugees from the Dominican Republic reside in a temporary displacement camp. Deux Mains also help those living in the camp. 6 people now work full time in the factory and each day they are picked up and driven home, adding another vital lifeline to those living in desperation.
She goes on to explain, “We also built a satellite workshop in the camp where other members of the community can have access to income by transforming sidewalls by hand.”
What’s impressive about Julie’s story and the whole set-up of Deux Mains is the multiple issues she is intent on helping; providing paid work for Haitian people, recycling end of life tires on the island and offering a lifeline for refugees. And what’s more, she’s doing it all in a solar-powered factory.
Julie is making steps to change the world, one tire at a time.
Beautiful. Affordable. Ethical.
Check out the full Deux Mains range here.