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Couple use tech expertise to craft self-cleaning hoodie for homeless people

Entrepreneurs Varun Bhanot and Anisha Seth Bhanot reckon that the garment can repel dirt and stains to help those without access to washing facilities

An entrepreneurial couple have created the world’s first “self-cleaning hoodie” in a bid to help homeless people and save the planet.

London-based Varun Bhanot and Anisha Seth Bhanot set up Unhoused.org – billed as the “homeless Amazon” – in 2018 after being stunned by the English capital’s rough sleeping rise.

The online store was created to bring tech solutions to homelessness and boost the number of fresh clothes heading to shelters and now the Bhanots have taken their idea a step further with their new hoodie.

Sold under the same “buy one give one” model used by the rest of the store, the jumper range repels liquids, dirt and stains, requiring just two to three washes per year.

One half of the pair, who come from a tech and finance background, Varun told The Big Issue that he believes the hoodie is a lifeline for rough sleepers who do not have access to washing facilities while also promoting sustainability.

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“When we went into the shelters we saw that fresh clothing was very precious because there is a reliance on second-hand stuff,” he said. “So we tried to start thinking of more tech-based solutions and ideas that were a little bit more sustainable and durable and that’s where this idea to create a self-cleaning hoodie came from.

“It took quite a bit of time to get things right – it’s powered by this interesting Freshtech nanotech that lets the water drip off the surface rather than adhere to the fabric.

“It’s taken off a little bit since we launched it late last year. The shelters have been quite welcoming of the idea.”

So far, Unhoused has worked primarily with three shelters run by Welcome Centre Trust and The Salvation Army in East London and Essex while Varun insists they have also received orders for the hoodie from the rest of the UK as well as Europe and the USA.

And, according to Varun, their sights are not just set on the winter with the hoodies. They are looking to adapt the fabric to create T-shirts and underwear that can be worn in the summer when the hot weather can be just as inhospitable for rough sleepers.

Unhoused’s products are also the newest additions to The Big Issue Shop.

“We have had people asking us about other garments, when the weather improves, T-shirts and undergarments might be more useful. Hopefully by then we can look at doing that, there is no reason why we can’t,” he said.

“We only started at the end of 2018 and we see our audience as people who care about social issues and it’s quite hard to reach them on our own as a start-up. So naturally we thought that The Big Issue is the place where people come because they care about social issues and how their products help others so naturally it’s a place where we’d want to be.”

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