We started The Fabric Social to support and celebrate women producers who are working to overcome the obstacles of their circumstances, whilst keeping the artistry and creativity of their communities alive.
Four years later, and we have seen our fair share of setbacks: packages held up in impossible customs ransom, floods and landslides galore, delivery dates missed, and one very silly cape that somehow made its way into our first collection.
But that's what we signed up for. We knew that working specifically with vulnerable rural communities would be a challenge, that finding women-led producer groups and suppliers would be a hurdle, and that all of this would be compounded by the fact that we work specifically with communities who are recovering from armed conflict.
The Fabric Social goes beyond the slogans, and beyond the hashtags, and builds real connections from the ground up. I am so proud of how far we have come, and the impact we have managed to create alongside our lionhearted partners on the ground. The setbacks really do make the wins so much sweeter.
As next week is Fashion Revolution Week, I thought it would be an appropriate moment to share an update about the impact we've had since our last letter from the field.
And remember: destroy the patriarchy, not the planet,
Fiona McAlpine and Sharna de Lacy
You may remember in July of last year we held a successful crowdfunding round to set up a new tailoring and dye unit in Mizoram.
In December, we received the news that the Juki sewing machines had finally arrived, after several months of blocked roads and administrative hurdles to get them to the remote hill station of Aizawl where Siami is located.
Siami got to work putting together the tables, motors, and machines piece by piece in the studio she has created in her apartment. Just last week, training began for six young women (pictured above) to learn these machines inside out, and master the art of export quality garment tailoring.
For The Fabric Social, this is one step towards our long-term goal of centralising all of our India based production in our target impact areas: the conflict and post-conflict Northeast regions.
For our project partner Siami x Siami, this is the beginning of creating a women-led local business to support the local weaving scene and provide work for the talented artisans of Mizoram.
Late last year, The Fabric Social sent over Anissa Dove to work with the wonderful MBoutik Myanmar on sourcing and product development. Anissa was an instant hit with our Bagan based project partners, and worked closely with them to develop new weaving patterns, colour schemes and natural dye processes.
Our second collection with MBoutik featured natural dye made from tree bark, thanks to the ingenuity of Maw Maw (an MBoutik woman and head of the Women Craft Producers Association). The collection also uses the gingham and chequered motifs native to the Dryzone of Myanmar where our partners work.
One of our Burmese tailors Hnu Wai Wai has put her newfound garment tailoring skills to work and is the now the go-to designer and tailor for wedding outfits back in her village. The women continue to work collectively in their new tailoring unit that we helped establish.