A Ho Chi Minh City teacher with a love for the environment has discovered a passion for upcycling fabric scraps, which she uses to make various creations and launch a project called Made by Zy.
Nguyen Thanh Ngoc Thao, a young teacher who is nicknamed Zy, is known as a person who is enthusiastic about leftover fabric and do-it-yourself projects.
Thao developed a passion for creating things as a student with the goal of being financially independent.
In 2015, Thao was able to sell enough handmade accessories like bracelets and various pieces of jewelry to cover her tuition instead of asking her parents for it.
Thao began using fabric scraps to make accessories at the end of 2019. She started selling the products to support a community project to provide fresh water in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai.
She paid a lot of attention to fabric remnants after paying a visit to a relative’s tailor shop in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho at the beginning of 2020.
Taking the trimmings to the home, the young teacher tried out creating some accessories as gifts for herself.
Regarding them as only a way to play with her passion, Thao was surprised by the welcome and support from her close friends and acquaintances.
The project Made by Zy that specializes in making accessories out of fabric leftovers was officially launched at that moment.
Currently, apart from her main job as a STEM teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Thao immerses in her own sewing project to play with fabric scraps on weekends.
“I would like to be always ready to work. I can do what I want to at the moment," she said.
"I believe in the future, I would have many precious memories when I look back to this time, and I would never regret anything."
Thao’s aunt, who is a tailor shop owner, has given her very much support as she understands how useful and practical her project would become. The aunt has supplied Thao with a lot of craft materials.
“The fabric scraps have now been able to be recycled in a useful way instead of being thrown away like before,” shared Thao.
“My aunt suggested some craft ideas that can be made out of trimmings."
When Thao’s project gained traction, the sources of fabric scraps have definitely increased with more contributions from other tailor shops.
Like Thao’s aunt, the tailor shops’ owners hope a huge amount of fabric leftovers would be given a new lease of life in a more useful manner instead of being dumped in a landfill.
Under the young woman’s skillful and creative hands, soon-to-be discarded trimmings can be transformed into beautiful items like colorful headbands, ribbons, envelopes, earrings, water bottle holders, and bags.
Learning from mistakes
Thao was not hesitant to talk about mistakes she made during her interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
As a young entrepreneur, she occasionally found herself in troublesome situations that she had to struggle to overcome.
She had to spend one hour making one headband during the first days. That was when Thao did not know how to cut, combine, and sew the scraps together properly and beautifully.
In addition, customers did not welcome her first products due to their uncompetitive prices.
“I was turned down by so many people that I felt extremely disappointed,” recalled Thao. Some of her co-workers those days decided to leave for more stable jobs as well.
“My feelings were ambiguous and stressed at that time,” she added. Thao is determined to get out of her comfort zone to challenge herself in the business area.
Despite several obstacles in the beginning, Thao tried her best to figure out efficient ways of making headbands from fabric scraps.
It takes her just two to three minutes to complete a headband now, and she can make around 100 pieces each day.
Thao took part in a group sharing her ideas of transforming fabric leftovers into headbands. Her dedication to the idea caught the fellow community members’ attention.
Eventually, she got an offer from a stranger of one online community to bring her products to present in their store, which she considered as 'light at the end of the tunnel' then.
Thao has run into some problems while pursuing her passion and she found herself growing up after such challenges.
She becomes more careful in choosing potential partners by the time thanks to those sad experiences.
Thao failed to conduct a process of collecting and recycling second-hand clothes in February 2021 due to a shortage of staff, and she could not control the collected clothes’ quality either.
After the failure, she held many mini-workshops where participants brought their old clothes to and repurposed them into new things like headbands and ribbons by themselves.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Thao went online to sell her handmade products. She connected with some e-commerce sites specializing in selling eco-friendly goods to reach her potential customers.
The woman intends to explore more new kinds of craft materials besides fabric scraps, especially plastic waste, in creating more practical and useful items in the near future.