New Project : COA’s Haus of Schmattes

As Jewish people living in Sydney,  most of us know someone who works in the ‘rag trade’. For years Jewish people have graced the world with the best in Schmattes (Yiddish for ‘rags’ an affectionate term for clothing and textiles), particularly in Sydney’s fashion center of Surry Hills.

COA’s Centre coordinator, Mordechai Levin, took this term and coined the label “Haus of Schmattes” paying homage to the original rag traders who re-settled in Sydney post-WW2, and started the ‘Haus of Schmattes’ project at COA, influenced by his recent participation in the Iordanes Spyridon Gogos show held at the Powerhouse Museum as part of Australian Fashion Week 2022 and was showcased in Vogue, Marie Claire and Harpers Bazaar. Through the course of the show Mordechai realised that there was so much untapped potential out there but the collaboration only comprised of younger creatives. Being a psychology  student, and working with over 65s at COA, Mordechai envisaged a world of good in mimicking the same collaborative framework as the Gogos showcase, but applied to retirees and seniors in the local Jewish community.

The Haus of Schmattes will create a collection that is influenced by the personal and cultural storytelling of older people. This unique project will promote healthy aging through creative expression, participation in community and social connection as opposed to loneliness, isolation and stagnation which are proven contributors to mental and physical decline in seniors.

The goal is to one day exhibit the collection in galleries and on the fashion runway, in hopes of garnering the  attention and media response that every participant deserves. Upon completion of the Haus of Schmattes      project, COA hopes to support, inspire and guide other organisations to follow suit with their creative seniors.

Haus of Schmattes is recruiting senior volunteers wanting to assist with running operations – artistic director, grant writer, location coordinator – as well as skilled senior artisans  – dressmakers, designers, models, set makers, jewellers, photographers etc. Additionally, the Haus of Schmattes needs donations of quality fabrics or used clothes, sewing machines, mannequins, sewing accessories and an overlocker machine. If you have any of these sitting around unused at home, COA is happy to come and pick them up from you.

Please forward all enquiries to Mordechai by email,, or in person Monday and Wednesday at the COA Centre, and keep up with the project as it grows through the Instagram account @Haus.o.s. To all our talented members out there, let’s get artsy!!

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