Social Fabric

We are an independent non-profit organisation that is committed to creating education and work integration in Switzerland.

Together with people from refugee backgrounds, we promote self-determined integration, empowering our participants to make informed choices and have control over their lives.


Additionally, we oversee a community sewing atelier in Zürich and our work on a local level is designed to contribute to an inclusive and strong society.

Our impact 2020

Refugee education and integration at Social Fabric, Zurich

Our values

56 Sewing Members and
32 Active Participants with a refugee background
First graduates from our Apprenticeship and Pre-apprenticeship programs
10 Sponsored Memberships for our participants from refugee backgrounds
3196 hours spent by 82 different volunteers


We are humanists, and we strive to make a positive contribution to the lives of people we work with.


We bring together a group of engaged and motivated people who share our core values, and who care about each other.


We believe in developing strong and resilient business practices that support people and communities, and are ecosystem-focused. 


We value and care about our team members, partners, suppliers, community members, customers, and the environment.


We hide nothing. We tell you who our suppliers and partners are, and we admit when things are not perfect.



We strive to develop beautiful products and experiences that people value and appreciate.

 Our team

Justine Portenier

Justine Portenier

MANAGING DIRECTOR - Head of Strategies & Partnerships

Since 2017 Justine has been a team member of Social Fabric. In addition to the managing position, she is responsible for strategy and fundraising as well as partnerships. Her interest in the societal and sustainable aspects of economic sciences were deepened in her MA Public Management & Policy, but also led her throughout the years with Social Fabric. She is committed to social, intercultural understanding and wants to create sustainable awareness for global challenges.

Mari Kuuse

Mari Kuuse

Marketing & Communication 

Mari – BA, Anthropology – joined the Social Fabric's team in January 2021 as an intern. In April the same year, she took on a permanent position, and is currently responsible for marketing and communication. She is originally from Estonia, where she completed her BA degree at Tallinn University. For her theses, she studied different cultural integration spaces within the city of Tallinn, organised on a grass-root level by active citizens. 



Ruth Knipping

Head of Production & Education

Ruth Knipping - Graduate Engineer Textile and Clothing Technology, Textile Printing - has 20 years of experience in the globally operating textile industry. In her past positions as material manager, Ruth placed a strong focus on the sustainable production and procurement of fabrics, always respecting aspects of team-oriented and socially inclusive standards. After being a longtime member of the Social Fabric’s board, Ruth took a more active role in August 2021 as a Head of Production & Education. Ruth appreciates Social Fabric as a place that promotes integration, respect, social justice and a sense of community.

​ Kouassi Amousso-Doh

Kouassi Amousso-Doh

AOZ GEP-Participant

Kouassi Amoussou-Doh came to Switzerland in 1997 from his home country of Togo. Since the end of 2018, Kouassi has been working as a tailor for Social Fabric as part of the AOZ’s GEP (Gemeinnützige Einsatzplätze) program. Kouassi brought a lot of experience in tailoring to Social Fabric. After he completed his studies in France, he completed a three-year apprenticeship in the textile trade in Togo, followed by a six-month internship under the guidance of a master tailor. He has worked as a freelance tailor for over eight years, and is hoping to return to Togo after working for Social Fabric to open his own studio.

Fatima Hasanzadeh

Fatima Hasanzadeh


Fatima's family is originally from Afghanistan, but she was born in Iran and lived most of her life there. She started sewing at an early age, when she was only seven years old, and learned the basics on her own. Later, she worked for several sewing ateliers in Iran and Turkey. She came to Switzerland in 2016, and joined Social Fabric in February 2021 through AOZ’s GEP (Gemeinnützige Einsatzplätze) programme. She is keen on taking her sewing skills even further, and her goal is to make a career for herself as a fashion designer.



Rabia Jafari    


Rabia was born in Afganistan but moved to Iran when she was four years old. She came to Switzerland in 2015 together with her husband and two daughters. Since August 2021, she is doing a Pre-Apprenticeship in our sewing atelier. Her interest in sewing has a broad base: most of her family members are tailors by profession, including her mother and her husband, but she also has a passion for fashion design. She hopes to open a small clothing shop with her husband after she is ready with her studies. 


We believe that education, employment and social engagement play vital roles in generating positive social impact. While available to most citizens of Switzerland, these opportunities are often limited to people with refugee backgrounds. Our aim is to change that.


Our mission is to facilitate the integration and social inclusion of people with refugee backgrounds into Swiss society through education and work experience. We do that by providing a holistic training program and a variety of social community activities centred around sustainable craft and textiles.

Our Board

Board Member_Megan McGill.jpg

Megan McGill

Board Member

Megan McGill - Senior Programme Manager - is an expert in the circular economy of textiles, non-profit management and systems thinking. She holds a MBA from the University of St.Gallen and a MSc from Imperial College London. Currently, she is a Senior Programme Manager at Laudes Foundation and responsible for a budget of around EUR 5 million annually. Megan has supported Social Fabric from its beginning and as a Board Member since 2017 because of her firm belief in the potential of our community to demonstrate leadership and contribute to a sustainable and just society.


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Ksenia Starikova

Board Member

Ksenia Starikova - expert in Media, Marketing and Branding - joined Social Fabric at the end of 2020 and became an Executive Board Member in early 2021. Originally from Russia, she has been a world citizen for the past decades, living in London, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles, with the most recent addition of Zürich. She is led by her deep-rooted enthusiasm for storytelling, and her career has been shaped by an acute ability for constructing exciting visual and conceptual narratives. She has an inherent interest in sustainability and social impact that is furthered by ethnography research, travel and a deep respect for culture-based knowledge, all of which have also influenced Ksenia’s personal ethos. At Social Fabric, she helps us to amplify our voice.

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Ruth Knipping

Board Member

Ruth Knipping - Graduate Engineer Textile and Clothing Technology, Textile Printing - has 20 years of experience in the globally operating textile industry. In her past positions as material manager, Ruth placed a strong focus on the sustainable production and procurement of fabrics, always respecting aspects of team-oriented and socially inclusive standards. Ruth appreciates Social Fabric as a place that promotes integration, respect, social justice and a sense of community. She is close to the people that she has met while being engaged at Social Fabric and describes her time here as enriching. With her longstanding and diverse expertise in the textile industry, she is a valuable addition to the Social Fabric Board.

Our Advisors

Social Fabric Founder and Advisor Heather Kirk

Dr. Heather Kirk


Heather - Founder and Researcher – did her PhD in microbiology and was a researcher in her home country, Canada, before coming to Switzerland to take on a research position at ETH. She wanted to increase the impact of her day-to-day work, and so she developed the idea of Social Fabric as a vehicle to bring people together to create new ideas. She is especially interested in innovation and social impact. As its founder, Heather knows Social Fabric like the back of her hand and, therefore, is the perfect person to support the association as advisory board member.

Social Fabric Advisor Dr. Dominique Bourqui

Dr. Dominique Bourqui


Dominique Bourqui - BFCC Coaching and Consulting - is a lawyer and has more than ten years of experience as a consultant and coach with a focus on entrepreneurship and business. She works with her clients and helps them to develop their entrepreneurial spirit and business thinking. Furthermore she provides clarification and enables her clients to plan their professional future and translate plans into action. She shares Social Fabric’s values and energy and sees great potential in the people who lead it.

Social Fabric Advisor Veronique Riccio-Derksen

Véronique Riccio-Derksen


Véronique Riccio-Derksen - Humanitarian Professional - is an expert in international humanitarian law, human rights and program management. She has more than ten years of professional experience in Africa and Southeast Asia with NGOs, the UN and the humanitarian aid of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Véronique advocates for basic human rights of internally displaced persons,  refugees and other vulnerable groups affected by armed conflict. Her work is still Véronique’s greatest passion and she is often astonished at people’s resilience in the most dramatic situations. Her experience in the humanitarian field of work is highly valuable for our board.

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Sonja Astier



Sonja – an IT professional, crossed paths with Social Fabric in 2020 while doing research for an entrepreneurial project. Originally from South Africa, she has been based in Switzerland since 1999 and supports pharmaceutical companies with the management of their IT operations and transformation projects. She has great admiration for Social Fabric’s vision, mission, values and dedicated team. With a passion to build simple self-sustainable IT solutions she advises and supports Social Fabric with  their IT tools and landscape.