Guild Members Respond to COVID-19 & Create Community Virtually for Fashion Revolution Week
Fashion Revolution Week is the annual #whomademyclothes and #imadeyourclothes campaign, held every April on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. The campaign is designed to bring awareness to global handworkers in the apparel, home, and accessories production chains. During this week, brands and producers demonstrate transparency in their supply chains by featuring information and images across social media about their production process and the skilled handworkers behind the products. Many members of the Nest Artisan Guild, a network of over 700 artisan enterprises with a footprint in over 100 countries, join the movement by sharing their brand stories online.
Ordinarily, throughout the week this virtual movement is accompanied by in-person educational events, like exhibits and installations. Coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide social distancing measures to ‘flatten the curve’ and limit the spread of COVID-19, this year Fashion Revolution Week has gone fully virtual. In response, participants are finding creative ways to bring their initiatives online in a dual effort to raise awareness around conscious consumption and production, while building and supporting their communities through these uncertain times.
Nest partnered with Fashion Revolution to share the inspiring community-building initiatives Guild members are leading virtually this Fashion Revolution Week.
Mayamiko Translates COVID-19 Resources into Local Language & Shares At-home Craft Activities
Paola Masperi, Founder of made-in-Malawi Guild business Mayamiko, shares about the COVID-19 educational resources they are translating into local languages, and the fun and free at-home craft activities they are sharing across social media.
What inspired you to found Mayamiko and what is the vision for the organization that gives you strength and motivation?
“Mayamiko is an ethical and sustainable woman’s wear and lifestyle brand, producing apparel, accessories and homegoods, lovingly made in Malawi by our team of tailors, pattern cutters and seamstresses. I founded Mayamiko with the desire to create sustainable livelihoods through craft-based production, creativity, storytelling and fairer trade practices, particularly for women.
Mayamiko works in partnership with Mayamiko Trust, our sister charity. Through the Mayamiko Trust we hope to offer women choices for their own lives, and we see education as the key to unlock these choices. So, we focus on providing free quality training in tailoring and sewing, business and entrepreneurship education, as well as access to grants and microfinance.
The Charity and brand work together through the Mayamiko Fashion Lab where our garments are made. The Mayamiko Fashion Lab was designed to provide training, education, nutrition, sanitation and fairer trade practices to all of those involved. The project currently provides training in sewing and tailoring as well as financial and business skills to local, disadvantaged women, many of whom are affected by the HIV pandemic or who are carers of HIV orphans. After their training all trainees receive a recognised qualification as well as mentoring, guidance and access to a micro-finance scheme, enabling them to start their own business or staying on to work with Mayamiko.”
Tell us about how you are keeping Mayamiko’s team safe and employed during this time and the COVID-19 educational resources you are developing and translating into local languages.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded around the world, we decided that the safest thing was for our teams to work from home. Since, we have pivoted production to produce fabric masks which current Fashion Lab students and Mayamiko seamstresses are sewing from their homes. We are also happy to be able to provide employment sewing masks during this time to past Fashion Lab graduates who have set up their own businesses but are currently grounded at home.
We have set up systems to safely distribute raw materials and collect the finished masks. We were able to nimbly shift to this new production system because each seamstress has a sewing machine at home provided through our sewing machine grants. These machines have proven to be a real relief during this time of crisis by providing our artisan partners the opportunity to continue to earn an income safely from home.
We continue to pay full salaries and plan to do so as long as possible. We keep in touch with everyone on a daily basis through WhatsApp and send each other pictures of what ‘working from home’ looks like for each of us.
In addition to providing a source of income, we also want to help our community stay healthy and safe. We created a number of educational resources including easy to read flashcards translated into local languages that can be shared digitally to help spread messages on how to stay safe. We have also created a mask-making pattern and tutorial to empower people to make their own masks, cheaply and easily at home.
We are encouraging those who are able to, to ‘pay it forward’ and sponsor a face mask. This allows us to keep donating masks to those in need and allows us to provide employment to our artisan partners. We also want to care for and acknowledge our customers, so our artisan partners in Malawi created a simple scrunchie making tutorial to help our community do something crafty at home!”
Learn more about Mayamiko’s response to COVID-19, sponsor a mask, and access their educational resources here.
Idia’Dega Builds a Dress From Swatches Sent by Mail
Terenah Idia, founder and designer of Pittsburg-based Guild business Idia’Dega, shares the story behind her project OAM: A Creative Community Response to COVID-19.
Tell us about Idia’Dega and what you do.
“Idia’Dega is about building community and connecting artisans and underrepresented designers to collaborate on projects that build environmental, cultural, heritage and economic connections between the people who create the designs as well as the people who wear our designs. We typically work with women, but our mission extends to any marginalized group.
We want to rethink the fashion ecosystem and create in a way that is transparent, personal, and celebrates who, how, what and why we make what we do. Our goal is for the maker to feel good about what they are creating and the consumer to feel good about what they are wearing.”
Tell us about your current project OAM: A Creative Community Response to COVID-19
“Idia’Dega is built on the ideas of creative community and working together even from a distance. When COVID-19 enveloped the world I wanted to do something that captured this spirit and supported my community creatively while we are practicing social distancing. So, I launched OAM: A creative Community Response to COVID-19.
I have asked people to mail me four-inch squares of fabric art they have created or swatches of meaningful textiles. These can be swatches cut from a cherished old t-shirt or another textile, or it can be a piece they have crocheted, embroidered, knitted, quilted, or decorated. I accept any textile that can be made while practicing social distancing and which can be sewn into a garment. I will sew the swatches together to form a sculptural dress.
The inspiration for the dress is the Three Rivers and Golden Triangle which are created by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers which stem from the Ohio River here in Pittsburg. Imagine the Golden Triangle as the proud neck of the dress, with the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers as cascading sleeves, and the mighty Ohio as the long train. The project symbolizes the coming together of disparate pieces from afar to create one beautiful whole.”
You can learn more about the project and how you can take part here.
Freeset Global Creates a DIY No-sew Mask Tutorial
Nancy Knapp, Chief Business Development Officer of India-based Guild business Freeset Global, shares the DIY no-sew mask tutorial Freeset Global artisans developed as a simple way for anyone to create a protective mask in India where local infrastructure is disrupted by complete lockdown.
Tell us about Freeset Global and what you do.
“We believe every person needs a community to belong to. At Freeset, we live in communities marked by extreme poverty and vulnerability. Our people are world-battlers, fighting daily for the good of their families and neighbors. We want to see freedom prosper in our communities, with every person having a chance to not only feed and clothe themselves but ultimately reach their full potential.
Freeset began in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red-light areas with ~10,000 sex workers, many of whom were taken from homes in villages and communities across West Bengal. Our women hoped for something better. Through jobs at Freeset making bags and tees, we worked to build new homes and a new community of freedom in Kolkata. We launched Freeset Trust to provide better counseling and care for staff and community.
In 2014, our women started dreaming about returning to their ancestral homes, so we visited communities in the Murshidabad district (rural West Bengal) and now have two new businesses in strategic locations. We’ve seen some of our women return home to work in these businesses. Better still, through our presence we’re helping communities ensure their daughters are never trafficked away.
In buying Freeset, you’re part of this journey: strengthening homes and communities. Our heart is for the thousands still seeking a safe, caring community to call home, and the millions more at risk. We make bags, tees, accessories and apparel for sale around the world and we’re committed to the long haul.”
How are Freeset Global artisans staying connected to one another during this time?
“Social distancing does not have to mean social disconnecting. Although all of our operations remain closed during the current lockdown period in India, we are continuing to interact with the community and Freeset Global artisans via phone. We have created multiple message groups for different communities to stay connected. These groups help to share updates and act as a helpline for the women in our community.
We also ensure our leaders are having regular one-to-one phone conversations, and people share encouraging photos of how they are spending time at home. We all need the support of one another!”
Tell us about the DIY facemask tutorial Freeset Global artisans created.
“As the novel coronavirus looms over the globe, wearing a mask has become a mandate in most countries, including India. Everyone is in need of masks, but they can be incredibly hard to find, particularly in India where the country is on total lockdown. Our operations have been closed for over a month, so we have been thinking about what we can do to support our community here in India and overseas. We created a step-by-step DIY no-sew mask tutorial which shows how you can make a simple DIY mask in 3 steps using an ordinary T-shirt or another tightly woven material to protect yourself and your loved ones.”
You can view the DIY no-sew mask tutorial on Freeset Global’s Instagram here. Visit Freeset Global to learn more about their work and how you can support their artisan community.
Threads of Peru Shares their Craft Story and Connects to their Mission
Ligia Gómez, Project Coordinator and Sales Consultant at Peru-based Guild business Threads of Peru, shared the story and mission behind the brand and how they are keeping their mission alive throughout this moment of grounded operations.
What is the story and mission behind Threads of Peru?
“Threads of Peru works with weaving cooperatives in four regions of Cusco, namely the Sacred Valley, the Patacancha Valley, the Mapacho River Valley, and Ausangate, creating handwoven items such as ponchos, scarves, bags and home textiles. Each group has unique strengths in terms of skills and products, and offer different pallays (traditional woven designs), according to how their weaving tradition evolved.
Our founders saw how these beautiful traditions were disappearing and partnered with the weaving communities to preserve their weaving traditions and provide a sustainable source of income. Today, we continue to be inspired by our mission to preserve this craft and serve as a source of supplemental income for traditional weavers living in remote communities.
Traditional weavers start learning to weave at an early age from their mother and grandmothers. Traditional clothing is woven this way and children begin learning the craft as young as five years old, first by spinning yarn and then weaving simple patterns into belts, to ensure they are able to produce their own clothing in the future.
How are you staying connected with your artisan partners during this time?
“Most of the weavers we work with live in remote areas and people are currently unable to leave their homes in Peru so we are staying connected with our artisan partners via phone. We are checking in on peoples’ wellbeing and reassuring our partners that we are doing our best to keep our doors open and ensure that we will be here after markets reopen.
We are staying connected with our global community online through our Instagram and website. Last week we launched a giveaway to help generate income so our staff is able to remain employed and to be able to reinvest in production when possible. Reinvesting in production means work for the weavers and sewers, and also supports our local yarn, dye and leather suppliers.”
Learn more about the campaign and how you can support Threads of Peru here.
NDOPCraft Pivots Production to Masks for Donation to Support Local Community
Nungow Gabe David, President and Founder of Cameroon-based Guild business NDOPCraft, shares how they have pivoted their production to produce fabric-based masks for donation which they will distribute locally to those most in need.
Tell us about NDOPCraft and what you do.
“NDOPCraft is an ethical and fair trade organisation based in Cameroon. The main objective of NDOPCraft is to improve the wellbeing and safeguard the livelihoods of marginalised producers, especially women, by providing training and non-exploitative professional marketing services based on ethical and fair trade principles between our local producers and formal market outlets. We produce baskets, table mats, knitted products, embroidery, and other textile products, which are sold through ethical, sustainable and fair trade channels around the round.”
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted NDOPCraft and how have you responded?
“Our greatest goal is to provide protective masks to those in need in our home country, Cameroon, to ensure no one is left behind and create jobs for local artisans during this difficult time.”
Sponsor a mask for a frontline worker while employing artisans like NDOPCraft through Nest’s PPE Purchasing Initiative here.
Thank to Fashion Revolution for supporting artisan producers worldwide and providing platforms to share artisan voices. You can learn more about Fashion Revolution here // @fash_rev, and read Nest Guild member stories on the Fashion Revolution blog here.