The fact that P(l)uto is a space where human connection has a big power is obvious not only from the name of the group but also from the activities that the sisters Baluchova are doing. Since 2011 they are dedicated to social inclusion in an unusual form as citizen association OZ Pluto. "Balušky" are trying to re-include socially excluded people into work, creative and often real life in general. They try to make them feel needed, satisfied and pleased from the work they’ve finished when they create Pluto goods. They came up with an idea of how more target groups can be mutually beneficial and how to help create a better world. Even though, of course it is not always easy… More about it in the interview with Kristína Baluchová and her sister Boba Markovič Baluchová.
Photo: Michaela Dutková
Every once in a while we all feel the need to do something good and to help those who don't have easy life. For you one time occasion event such as Charity Christmas flea market two years ago wasn't enough. Why did you decide to run a charity shop?Plutošop na Panskej 13?
K: Pluto started and is still working as an experiment. Opening of Pluto shop was just natural conclusion. I got to know more and more sheltered workshops and their beautiful products. I felt the need to show them to the world and spread their message.
B: I've been doing charity work for over 20 years and I work on many projects without getting paid. For that reason I don't see nothing in connection with Pluto as one time event. For example our flea markets live their own lives now. Often we find outside the Plutoshop bag full of clothes, wool and cloths from anonymous donors- we use them for our flea markets or recycle-workshops. We don't even need to announce it on social networks.
You've decided to connect the charity with fashion. Why this connection?
K: The name is more or less metaphorical. It came up with whilst one of our unique project called "Clothes makes the man". Many people see charity as something that bothers them. So we decided to "dress it up" differently.
B: I would like to add that people see charity as something that is connected to church, orphanages, hospitals or social centers in countries with lower incomes somewhere in Africa or Asia. That's why we wanted to mention the exclusion of people with special needs and disabilities differently. Through the connection of design and fashion the issue got a larger audience.
You refer to Pluto goods as to original handmade pieces by clients from sheltered workshops that are wearable, affordable and support social inclusion. Can you run a shop just by selling of these goods?
K: Unfortunately not.
B: This question either asks for a brief answer - NO- or few-hour discussion.
How are you doing with the creating/building of a better world?
K: This is a very difficult question and I'm afraid that you will feel some disappointment in my answer. There is basically no such thing as social enterprise in Slovakia. We are holding onto the core philosophy - if one day Pluto or Plutoshop will be making a profit, I have a list of about 10 ideas that we could work up. It is much slower this way, but we didn't give up for now....
B: My favorite topics are volunteering and sustainable development journalism. The fact that I am doing research in this area and I'm lecturing about it in schools I am helping to create better world in my own way. I don't care that it sounds like a phrase. In the past months I was trying to follow conferences and seminars that talk about social enterprise and sustainability. I hope they are not just borrowing the themes because they sound good on grants and money requests. The speakers are mainly from abroad and also from our neighbor Czech Republic and there is an increasing impact on crowd funding in fundraising that is a key for survival of Pluto.
Who is supporting functioning and progress of Pluto?
K: We live more or less from the 2% of taxes that people can address to us, and from irregular contributions of random people. I also gave the royalties from my last three books to Pluto. Right now we are releasing a new book for children. I hope it will sell well. It is collection of nursery rhymes and it's called Kamoši z vypáraného svetra and it concerns the very core of Pluto and also of the things and people from outside of society.
Photo: Michaela Dutková
You work with more than 20 sheltered workshops.... Are people interested in the story of people that stands behind the goods from Pluto shop?
K: Yes, but many times they find out only after they buy the goods from Pluto shop.
B: Good story sells. But you didn't need to create the story for our goods- it is there already, because it's connected to that one person who created that product.
Photo: Michaela Dutková
In summer your released a new product - scented socks with kisses as a result of cooperation of Pluto, sheltered workshopAliis and Puojd. How did they all come together?
K: When creating a new project we take into consideration the character and possibilities of the sheltered workshop from our pluto-network. I was aware that they are unable to knit socks in Aliis, but we had so many nice products and fragranced sachets from this special sheltered workshop. So I made a joke about making scented socks- I was sure many people wanted to have that at home. I've asked Miska Bednarova from Puojd to cooperate on their design. I think she found it funny too and so we created a scented bag of Kiss Pluto-socks from Puojd and lavender scented sachet from Aliis.
Do you often meet Slovak people dressed in your models or wearing Pluto accessories, or are your clients mostly tourists?
B: Tourists know the name "charity shop" from their homes so they know what to expect in our shop and what kind of activities we support from the income from our products. So I would say-even though I can't statistically support it with relevant data - the tourists win over the natives. At the events such as Dobrý trh or Pohoda festival we meet people dressed in our shirts (from cooperation with Vstúpte from Malacky) or in the tank tops (from cooperation withDSS Prima) And if some fashion stylist would predict for this summer comeback of socks in the sandals we would see more of the Kiss socks out there. Pluto goods (T-shirts, aprons and above mentioned socks) have found their owners in the UK, France and Czech Republic or in New Mexico. Some are heading down to New Zealand in few weeks.
Are you philanthropists? And who else you find philanthropist?
B: When I am preparing press releases for OZ Pluto about our projects and I need to name the position of my sister I call her a philanthropist. So there is at least one in our Baluska family. But for me the greatest hero in Slovakia is 86-years old father Antonio who didn't have an easy life in any regime and he's a fighter until his last days. I personally don't know a person with larger heart then his.
K: Few of my friends and acquaintances who asked me how they cuold help... – they are my heroes.
Photo: Michaela Dutková
What are you wearing? Except for Pluto stuff of course...
B: Most of my wardrobe comes from second-hand rugs. If I want to treat myself on the special occasion I invest into colorful but wearable pieces from Puojd, Yaxi Taxi or Dana Kleinert.
What are you up to in OZ Pluto in upcoming months?
K: In the near future we are about to start an e-shop that would help present the beauty of our goods from sheltered workshops outside Bratislava. Another ambition is the above-mentioned children's book and merchandise - Zbytkáčikovia and another Pluto toys.... The third one is to keep on living through another year and running the Plutoshop. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
Thanks for the interview to Martina Švirlochova.