Q&A: Prom dress charity founder Ally Elouise makes essential PPE during the Covid-19 crisis.
Ally Elouise from Prom Ally discusses the motivation to give young women free access to prom dresses, the success ‘Eco-Wardrobe’ promoting reuse of formal clothing and their work with the ‘Sew for the NHS’ campaign during the Covid-19 crisis.
See this page in: Cymraeg
Ally Elouise of Prom Ally wearing an example of one of her home-made masks (Instagram: @officialpromally)
Where did the business and idea to hire our ballgowns originate?
The idea for Prom Ally came during a conversation between myself and my Dad back when I was in University in 2015. I had heard about some young girls not being able to afford a prom dress for their school prom and wanted to find a way to help. I set up Prom Ally as a small charity to do this. Over the last 5 years Prom Ally has grown and grown and we’ve just become a CIC in order to hire out formal-wear in addition to the free service to ensure it can stay open and accessible to all who need it. The hiring side of Prom Ally is called the Eco-Wardrobe, it encourages sustainability in the fashion industry by promoting hiring and re-using rather than buying new.
And you’ve put your talents to making facemasks for care homes during the Covid-19 outbreak. Tell us more about that?
Over the years running Prom Ally, I’ve always wished I could sew in order to adjust and mend dresses. Last Christmas I asked for a sewing machine and some books to help me learn to use it. I was however so busy, I never got the chance. Currently due to the Covid-19 outbreak meaning we’re all stuck in lockdown and the proms are cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable I decided to use this time to finally teach myself and thought it would be helpful to make DIY face masks.
Take a look below at some of the PPE created by Prom Ally that has been sent to care homes, schools and others in need:
Can you give us a summary of what has been achieved?
So far, I have sent out 43 face masks and have been asked to make a further 35. I am then going to try and help the Sew for the NHS campaign by joining in sewing surgical hats and uniform bags too. I would love to help sew scrubs as I know there’s a massive shortage in Wales at the minute but would have to do a bit more practicing first!
Did you have to overcome any major obstacles / challenges?
I first had to watch YouTube tutorials and read sewing books to teach myself how to set up, thread and use the machine. The only other obstacle I have faced so far was sourcing material and elastic during a time where all haberdasheries and textile shops are closed due to the lockdown. Luckily through the power of social media I was recommended some website and fabric shops who were offering a click and collect service. I also set up a Go Fund Me page to help towards costs of materials and postage.
Any there any members of staff / community you would like to give special mention to?
I would like to give a special mention to my Mum who in addition to being a school dinner lady cooking for the children of key workers is spending the rest of her lockdown cutting out my pattern pieces from different fabrics and materials ready for me to sew!
If you have one message for the social business sector now, and anyone thinking of starting out, what would it be?
My advice to anyone who thinks they may have an idea for a social business venture would be to run with it and take a risk! I took massive risks in order to set up Prom Ally such as quitting my full time job and moving back home with my parents to save on rent but the experiences and success stories that have come out of Prom Ally prove that the risk was the right thing to do!
Finally, during this pandemic, it’s important to stay as positive as possible, everyone is struggling but it will come right again eventually! Try and do as much as you can to look after yourself and help others.
Prom Ally has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales – New Start: funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
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