AJESH Abraham knows the wisdom of the saints will never go out of style.
Mr Abraham co-founded his family business Servi Store, a “fair-trade certified Catholic merchandise brand” focused on minimalistic design with inspirational quotes from Catholic saints or from scripture.
What set Servi Store apart was its potential to evangelise.
“It is a good way to evangelise,” Mr Abraham said.
“I try to make it more inspirational so they (the customers) can still wear it without feeling intimidated about it.
“So they are happy to have it and they can have a conversation: ‘Oh, why are you wearing this? What does it mean?’
“And they can go into a deeper conversation about it.”
Mr Abraham based his designs on topics young people faced.
He picked up a T-shirt from his stall, which read on the front: “Beauty when unadorned is adorned the most” – a quote from 5th Century St Jerome.
“And there are a lot of things going on about body image,” Mr Abraham said.
“It’s good for young people to know that they are beautiful just the way God made them.
“These types of messages we try to promote.”
His whole business was aligned with Catholic social teaching, including fair trade.
He said his search for fair-trade certified sources started with a “wake-up call” to what was going on in the world, especially the fashion industry.
“I’ve been a designer,” he said, “I just wanted to make some T-shirts with some inspirational quotes from some saints when I looked into sourcing my garments, (and) I kind of read into what happens in the fashion industry in the unethical practices.
“I thought I don’t want to put my hand in those unethical practices.”
So he explored and found a fair-trade certified group.
He even took it one step further by sourcing his garments from a religious order based in India focused on Franciscan spirituality, which runs its factory to support women, especially women from its orphanages.
“It’s sort of giving them (the women) a job when they grow out of school aged,” he said.
“I was very luck to find them; they are fair-trade certified as well.”
Mr Abraham also partnered with another group who made Servi Store’s wristbands, which featured a quote from Padre Pio: “Pray, hope and don’t worry”.
The wristbands were made by women in Kolkata from a very poor background.
“They sit and they make these things,” Mr Abraham said.
“We were happy to find them as well.”
Sadly, he said it wasn’t easy to find sources like theirs.
“It’s challenging, because you know you find it hard to source these things … ticking all these boxes,” he said.
“You could just make good stuff from anywhere, but to get them from specific ethical places and to know (the sources) personally and get them connected, it’s a bit of a lengthier and harder process.”
Mr Abraham said he had personally been to the places that sourced his garments to visit them and check on everything.
“I want to have that personal connection as well,” he said.
As for his merchandise, he said young people loved it.
He said they loved it initially for the design but also because a lot of them were “aware of the social factors and environmental factors”.
Mr Abraham said it was easy to get that message through, especially when they liked the fit and the feel of the clothing itself.
He has been commissioned to do custom merchandising by a number of dioceses for diocesan and youth group T-shirts, including Lismore diocese and Melbourne archdiocese.
“They were happy to source them through our fair-trade supply chain,” he said.
“(The brand is) pretty much fully Catholic; all the items have some sort of a Catholic quote from a saint or a design inspired by a quote.
“I mainly go to Catholic events and promote through Catholic suppliers, Catholic shops and stuff.”