Connecting The Dots: Fashion that Empowers

Fashion is now more humane than ever.

Technical assistance.

Technical assistance.

In Vogue: Ethical Fashion 

It is most unfortunate that fast fashion brands have great tendencies towards exploitation. Numerous sources have also made fact-sheets, showing information on that.

From those fact-sheets, it also shows that the relation between fast fashion brands and developing countries can never be separated. The logic is quite simple, fast fashion industry use cheap labors and low budget operation to sustain those low price items circulating in your wardrobe. So, they invade developing countries to build up their warehouses and workshop garages. Some even have designs that are copying other designer’s rights.

To my surprise, some of these fast fashion brands have a production and supply flow that are heading way too far from the human rights grid. As a saving scheme, several started recruiting child labors, abusing them to work with (very) low wages. There are also brands that close its labors’ access to public spaces. So basically, everyday is work for labors of these ‘fast fashion brands’. Indonesia, Bangladesh, and some other Asian countries are included to the list of the countries that accepts foreign investment from fast fashion brands.

As a critical respond and challenge against unfair practices of fast fashion business, the phenomenon of ethical fashion started to emerge. Ethical fashion becomes the new trend in the industry and the public as consumers. Ethical fashion businesses are now gradually spreading their products, as well as its purposeful ideas on fair trade, fair labors’ wage, environmentally conscious, and sense of empowering others to the surface.

Gerakan Tenunkoe: Fashion that Empowers     

Fashion surely can either be an empire of somebody or a support system for everybody. With all the potential and limitless communication and socialization platform, hand-crafters can market their products to every corner of the world.

Currently, there are lots of empowering efforts for small enterprises. To name a few, there’s: 1) fashionABLE, which aims to empower the poor and creates access to jobs; 2) Akola, which focuses on empowering farmers and survivors of HIV and AIDS, and; 3) Global Mamas, that endevors to create a prosper life for African women and their family. All three started with delivering coaching sessions and vocational trainings, from business to product-development and quality control. And all have the same purpose, to empower others.

Quality enhancement training.

Quality enhancement training.

In the context of Indonesia, we have Gerakan Tenunkoe as one of the players in the empowering-with-fashion game. Through a program which was initiated by Yayasan Satu Karsa Karya (YSKK) together with MAMPU, local weavers are empowered on their product-development and business skills management. This project aims to increase their woven cloths quality and introduce the women weavers to product trends that are adaptable for mass market.

Tenun in Kupang: Beyond Heritage

For the women weavers in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, ‘menenun’ or weaving tradition has been established for decades from generations of ancestors. Interlacing threads and yarns to become a precious fabric is executed on a daily basis, resulting colorful fabrics with various motives and colors. Long-hour of weaving process is usually started with a prayer ritual that is believed to add a soul into each fabric.

Weaving in Kupang is not only a cultural identity and heritage, but it is also a source of livelihood, an economic support. With all the limitations, women weavers in Kupang are supporting their family's economy by selling their products through traditional supply chain or even direct selling to tourists. Weaving becomes their source of income. It is nationally known, that Kupang (NTT) is one of the countries poorest areas.

Sadly, this sacred heritage of weaving tradition is also used by some irresponsible local couture industry, to then give the city industry actors, the spotlight in the fashion scene. They tend to approach the weavers community, staged it as an empowerment gesture, but then glamorized it to their own benefit, with no fair acknowledgement and compensation to the weavers. 

Making weaving pattern.

Making weaving pattern.

Business wise, Tenun crafting in Kupang is not growing yet. Women weavers don’t have enough exposure of representative business model and limited access to a fair supply chain to market their products. But, limitations don’t stop these women weavers in Kupang, nor it makes them lose hope. Despite having weak product development skills and business knowledge, they are eager to learn and innovate all the their weaving cloths to be more adaptable and in vogue, in order to reach a broader market, to help them increase buyers of their tenuns. Endeavors and dreams to grow are within the hearts of the women weavers, all they need is a little bit of support and open access. With the Gerakan Tenunkoe project, facilitated and supported by YSKK and MAMPU, the women weavers in Kupang are getting groomed to be ready to compete in the fashion business. And, lets hope their efforts will soon becomes a success.

If you freaks are curious and eager to help the women weavers of Gerakan Tenunkoe, you can have your own stylish tenun fashion pieces from Tenunkoe. Have a peek to their website, and experience their cool weaving products. Come here for more.