It’s not often that we can put a face, a name and a place to the creation of our fashion products. Fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M have obscured our knowledge of the process and our perception of “handmade” goods. Production of these low-priced, mass-produced items is affecting the global sustainability challenge and may in fact be doing more harm than good. The ever-growing slow fashion movement is pushing back, offering a chance for us to take control of the products we purchase by understanding how they’re made and how their production affects the environment — and potentially changing the lives of those who made them.
The women of a small weaving village in Takeo, Cambodia, are smiling today. Channa, mother of a young girl, works full-time in order to save for her daughter’s education. Mao’s salary supports her husband and six children who are able to attend school. Thanks to the efforts and investment of microfinance organization Sonas World and the opportunities presented by the global slow fashion trend, they have been given an opportunity to make a steady income through practice of their traditional craft of weaving. The Weavers Project (weaversproject.com) is an initiative that employs artisans in Takeo to produce handcrafted scarves, made available online around the world.
Cambodian weaving craft is an ancient tradition imbued with artistry and history. Fairtrade products, the scarves are created by hand with 100% cotton using large looms, bringing to life a multitude of colourful, modern designs. Through movement of a foot pedal on traditional weaving looms, two sets of yarn are interlaced to create the scarves: the warp, a set of threads initially attached to the loom lengthwise; and a weft, hank yarn wound into a small bobbin. Movement of foot pedals during the weaving process requires the weavers to exercise precise timing and a constant balance of body and mind – a skill they’ve come to master.
Through income generated from selling scarves, the women of the weaving village are able to overcome the throes of poverty so prevalent in Cambodia following the ravaging effects of Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Through the Weavers Project, the team at Sonas hopes to preserve the weaving tradition and offer these women the chance to earn a steady income, develop critical skills and create a foundation on which they can build their futures.
Each scarf is sent to its recipient with a story of the woman who made it. Brands like Weavers create a connection between the origin of the products we wear and ourselves as the wearers. All profits from the scarves sold come back to the weavers’ village so they can invest in new looms, employ more women and continue to grow the business.
We can have a positive impact through the fashion we decide to purchase. To check out the weavers’ scarves and join the slow fashion movement, visitweaversproject.com.