Sitting on the front porch of a little house on a dusty back street in Anjuna, Goa, chatting and watching three local women practice their embroidery skills – it seems a million miles away from the media and web hype of Black Friday – the symbol of consumerism that marks our calendar like a religious festival.
We are sitting with the ladies of Project Tres, brainstorming ways to collaborate and create together. Project Tres is an initiative set up almost four years ago to empower women by creating independence, financial stability and an outlet for their creative skills. Here in India and in Kenya, women gather together to share skills and stories and learn to make products – mostly toys and clothes which help to provide an economic and social sustainability. The heart of Project Tres is creating a positive social network for the women and their children.
This is what Alchemy Goa is all about!
Tia and I opened Alchemy three years ago – recognising that strength is in partnership and collaboration. It is easier to work together and inspire each other to keep evolving and thinking creatively and sustainably. Traditionally, Alchemy was about creation and experimentation - key concepts that we have woven into our boutique and our collections. The essence of Alchemy is always changing – bringing in new ideas, designers, new inspirations and collaborations. We are living in a time where we have to celebrate collaboration over competition, which has for too long dominated the fashion industry.
We think collaboration strengthens creativity. We sat with the ladies of Project Tres to see their skills and ideas. Rather than us be prescriptive about a design or a concept – we wanted to come and talk about the collaboration, see the skills and hear the ideas of the women that gather from the neighbourhood to stitch, crochet, embroider and mirror-work. While we were sitting, I showed one of the women, Neeta, our Alchemy logo and she picked up her crafts and began embroidering it onto cotton. This kickstarted what will continue to be a collective and empowering collaboration.
Project Tres has attracted local Goan women, migrants from the neighbouring states of Karnataka and further afield from Rajasthan. Often migrant workers come to work in Goa as part of the tourist industry and while away from home and can become quite vulnerable. Project Tres offers a safe space to hone skills and create an income for the women and their families. Local women, too, have found support within their fellow community of women creatives at Project Tres from abusive families and domestic violence. The project founder, Carla Maria, created it to empower women and help break the cycle of abuse; recognizing and developing a skill base and creating an economic stability that would nourish the women and their children. Creating self-confidence, leadership skills and financial stability.
A few years ago Tia designed a crochet top for her collection and the Project Tres women learned to make it. Working with local and international designers gives the women an important understanding of how their skills can be used and developed. Many of the local women have skills as seamstresses or embroiderers, but often don’t recognize that as a tradable skill. Here they are encouraged to share those skills and teach others. As we sit there, another one of the women, Bhageshwari, is practicing her embroidery but she is the crochet master who worked on creating the bikini top with Tia.
As well as creating handmade products and using as much recycled fabric as possible, Project Tres is zero waste – every scrap of unused material becomes stuffing for the lovely soft toys that they make. As we sat together, we discussed different methods of packaging products more sustainably with Rupa Nijoli, from the Indian NGO. For all of us getting our products around the world is a big challenge – but we must discuss solutions together in order to find the perfect one. This is collaboration at its finest.
Watch This Space
So this is slow fashion. We met together yesterday to be inspired. We are not sure how our collaboration will evolve yet – we have a few ideas in mind. This will be our first Alchemy Goa collaboration and can’t wait to see what we create! As soon as were ready we will share with you what has blossomed!
What is Black Friday and Why Should we Avoid It?
Black Friday has been around in the USA for a long time but was catapulted to popularity after a slow in high street sales in 2008 during the recession – when holiday shopping slumped to an all time low. Although it might seem great to the consumer who can snap up a bargain – often we are encouraged to buy something we don’t need – inspired in essence by the fear of big chains. The customer gets a good deal, but you can bet that the shop, high street chain or online retailer do not lose out – so somewhere along the chain – a designer, a tailor, the factory or the ladies stitching are losing out. There are also mental games at play: often, big box brands create lesser products specifically designed for Black Friday, offering a subpar product at what seems like an amazing price, with the consumer non the wiser that they are purchasing something that will break just in time for them to repurchase the following Black Friday. This creates an unsustainable chain of trash that adds to our crisis of waste.
Sustainable is the new Black
Big sales are simply unsustainable for at least one person in the supply chain. In the spirit of truly fair trade, we encourage Handmade Friday – and invite you to take this time to think about where your money goes and the provenance of each item you consume. Both Tia and FARA, create limited collections so that we limit waste. We create only what we feel we sell out, as this lowers our waste and creates no overstock. We also are both proud to utilize natural fibers, and aim to specifically use ones that are sustainable from seed to finalized garment.
Instead of buying into the shopping craze that surrounds Black Friday, we’ve chosen to use this platform to highlight an amazing charity and say thank you to all of our amazing customers who continually vote with their wallet, allowing us to continue working sustainably and encouraging others to do the same.
Every sale in store this week will be discounted 20% with an additional 10% donated to NGO Project Tres. If you cannot make it to Goa to shop in person, the same discount and donation is being honored at both FARA and Studio Tia with code ‘TAKE20GIVE10’
So come and help us celebrate the opening of Alchemy Goa or learn more and make a direct donation online to Project Tres