Enschede, The Netherlands

7 years of People Helping People

During his fashion studies, Bas received news that shocked him. His friends’ father died while he was sleeping outside. He died of hypothermia on a night when it was 8ºC. Today, Sheltersuit is a place where people passionately work together to prevent this.

Story by Tony Dočekal
Est. 5 minutes

As we approach the start of a new Sheltersuit season, we look back on the past 7 years of people helping people. Shock was transformed into action when the first Sheltersuit was made. Today, Sheltersuit is a place where people work together with thoughtfulness and dedication. We create a range of products in ways that embrace social impact, that helps keep people warm, dry, and comfortable. That helps them feel safe. It helps them feel seen.

In the midst of his fashion studies, Bas received some news that shook him. The father of his friends passed away while sleeping outside. He died from hypothermia, on an evening that was 8 degrees. He was sleeping next to a homeless shelter which on that night, wasn’t open. 

“I was shocked. At this time, I was developing a range of cold weather clothing at the fashion academy“, says Bas.

“I decided I could use my skills better if they were redirected to help people who need warmth and shelter the most.”

– Bas

He looked at his jacket designs, pulled some materials together (an old sleeping bag and a tent), and in 5 hours made a jacket with an additional piece to become a sleeping bag. This is what would become the first-ever Sheltersuit.

Oumar, 2014

Bas took the Sheltersuit prototype to a shelter in his hometown, Enschede, and approached a man sleeping near the shelter, offering him the suit. Immediately, Bas noticed him lower his guard, open up, and show interest. 

The man asked if he could share it with two friends, as they were living in conditions even worse than his own. But Bas promised to return with more. After gathering the materials, resources, and donations required, Sheltersuit produced its first 100 products. he returned, delivering the Sheltersuits to the man’s friends, partnering with that shelter, and founding the Sheltersuit Foundation.

Jodi Joao Dianobi, 2014

In 2016, we organized our first large-scale distribution in Amsterdam. We arranged hot meals, soup, and 400 Sheltersuits. This campaign generated a lot of publicity in The Netherlands, resulting in our first conversations with Dutch shelters and aid organizations.

Amsterdam, 2016

With many of our employees coming from Syria, Lebanon, and Eritrea, we became aware of the different forms of homelessness. People on the move, or who are stranded in a refugee camp also have to survive without a roof over their heads.

Our factory felt personally called upon to offer support here. Between 2017 and 2020, we distributed thousands of Sheltersuits and Shelterbags in refugee camps on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, and Sarajevo together with Movement on the Ground, WakaWaka and Unicef.

In addition to providing jobs for newcomers and people with a distance to the labor market, we use repurposed materials wherever possible. In this way, a Sheltersuit is an impactful product in itself and goes beyond the possibility of providing warmth, comfort, and dignity.

Shasho in Lesbos, 2018

7 years on, Sheltersuit exists in The Netherlands, South Africa, and the United States, each offering products designed for the local climate, local people, and their needs.

Partnerships are the best way forward in achieving results. Thanks to a donor from The Netherlands, we were able to donate 200 Shelterbags from our factory in Cape Town to Gift of the Givers. Operating in 43 countries, Gift of the Givers serves a global community and they have been doing so for 25 years.

The Shelterbags will be distributed where the Gift of the Givers distribution team believes they will be most wanted and desperately needed.

Last year, at the start of COVID-19, a new urgency arose around our mission of protecting those who are forced to sleep outside. While people were urged to stay at home, shelters were limited or even closed. Emergency shelters were quickly set up, but with so much capacity loss, people still ended up on the streets.

We set out to help as many people in the Netherlands as possible. Funded by donations and contributions from funds such as Oranje Fonds and Start Foundation, a total of 1,058 Sheltersuits and 1,276 Shelterbags were distributed, forging lasting relationships with Dutch shelters and aid organizations.

One year ago, American Time named Bas Timmer one of the Next Generation Leaders.

“In a year full of crises, this group are using their voices and platforms to build movements, break boundaries and push for change”, Time wrote.

“The nomination of Time helped spread the message and mission of Sheltersuit. This made conversations at large companies a lot easier, opening a lot of doors over the past year.”

– Bas
Time’s Next Generation Leaders 2020

An example of those doors opened, is our collaboration with luxury fashion house Chloé. After 7 years of putting all his time and effort into growing the Sheltersuit Foundation, Bas is eager to put his love for fashion and design back into practice on a whole new level. 

The weekend of the 25th of September, the Sheltersuit x Chloé backpacks and jackets will be presented for the first time as a limited edition of 550 unique, handcrafted pieces, at a Chloé pop-up at Printemps in Paris. Repurposed and upcycled, every backpack purchased funds two Sheltersuits. 

Bas will host an hour-long live talk, about Sheltersuit, our mission, and the collaboration with Chloé.

The launch is part of the French department store’s fall event focusing on sustainable practices across the fashion life cycle.

The past 7 years would not have been possible without your support. By donating, once or periodically, you support our mission of easing the symptoms of homelessness with products that are impactful in themselves. 

Every person who is forced to sleep on the streets should be warm, dry, and comfortable. 

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