The BEAR Hug Project

Buy a Bear for Rs 500, and a FREE Bear will be donated on your behalf to a less fortunate child from a low income household in Sri Lanka. Buy Now!

The Bear Hug Project will provide a cute little teddy bear playmate (pictured) free to children-in-need who do not have access to toys. The bears are made using fabric off-cuts and stitched by mothers of low-income households.

What am I made of?

Fabric off-cuts and love.

The Concept:

She'd watched her own child play with numerous toys while the plight of the less fortunate child out there, who did not have the comfort and stimulation of toys to play with, was bear-ing heavy on her mind. One day while mulling over the collecting mounds of fabric off-cuts produced by her clothing company, Thushya Shah, the CEO of HASHTAG CLOTHING put together the wonderful idea of creating a sustainable little plushy toy for children. As with any garment manufacturing process Hashtag does their best to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of waste fabric (cut pieces). However, no matter what was done, there was always some portion of cut pieces leftover.


The mind of the mother, the business woman, and the environmentally conscious entrepreneur conceptualized the project: She would up-cycle her high koala-ty soft denim and cotton fabric off-cuts, and self-fund the creation of a toy to be donated to the less privileged children of Sri Lanka. This project incorporates the left-over fabric off-cuts to help our society in three different aspects.

  • Left-over fabric is upcycled, it is kept out of landfills, helping the environment 

  • Creates employment and empowers women

  • Brings a smile to the face of less fortunate children 

The Design:

Thushya approached Ayanthi Gooneratne, Managing Director and Designer of Australian children's toy brand, Mel & Steff to design a toy with the fabric scraps. Ayanthi has been designing handmade soft toys and rag dolls for children, for over 30 years. She pawsitively loved the idea and the heartfelt motivation behind it. She promptly agreed and created the cutest little teddy bear plushy. A patchwork heart on its bottom, a chocolate hand-embroidered nose, baby-bear eyes, arms out-stretched offering a warm loving embrace: A gift complete with a big bow.

The Maker:

Building on the message of compassion driving Thushya's concept, Ayanthi replicated the production framework behind her own brand for the project: All Mel & Steff toys are made by mothers and caregivers who work-from-home within the constraints of their daily schedules to supplement their household income. This project would be no different. Ayanthi set to training women who needed the income but could not enter a conventional workforce. Lovingly made with Bear hands by mothers, for children, the Bear Hug Project was born.

The Market:

Ayanthi conveyed the details of the project to isle of ARTisans Founder, Lasanthi de Alwis and asked if she would design a simple tag to accompany the bears to be donated. Identifying the limitations of a self-funded project, Lasanthi suggested the ex-panda-able project be scaled to include a wider reach of children by offering a buy-one-donate-one incentive to cover the cost of production to ensure every child, on the island, from a low income family could potentially receive a donated teddy bear from The Bear Hug Project.