Making a difference

Artists and Designers Selvedge Shops

It's not easy trying to make a difference in the developing world and even the best intentions can go awry. We frequently hear about textile-based projects which hope to improve living conditions in Africa or India but tangible results are often hard to discern. Somehow Sancho's Dress – an independent, ethical, organic fair-trade clothing company based in South Devon – manages to stand out and inspire confidence. It could be their youth and enthusiasm – co-owners Kalkidan and Vidmantas are recent graduates who were inspired to set up Sancho's Dress while travelling in Ethiopia. It could be how good they are at conveying their story online – their blogs and videos make keeping up with the project a delight. Or it could just be that the handmade products they plan to make (using traditional wooden looms and local Ethiopian cotton) look simple and considered. Today the company are in the last stages of a Kickstarter campaign to fund a weaving workshop employing six women in the Debra M’arkos area of Ethiopia. They are tantalisingly close to achieving their goal of £10,000 and we're hoping Selvedge readers might help them reach it. The rewards for supporters are tempting (not to mention the feel good factor) but what really caught our attention was the thought and research behind the scheme. Kalkidan explains why she is keen to start small and see things through. "While studying Politics and Economics I travelled to Ethiopia to work for the largest NGOs in Ethiopia. I lived at my grandmother’s house in Addis Ababa but the work took me to projects all around the country. We would go to the country offices, and when people – especially young people – spoke, it was clear that they didn’t have pride in Ethiopia. I discovered that, through many factors, NGOs create short-term programs, bringing thousands of pounds of Western money to paint a school or build a well – and then leave. The children grow up believing only Western influence can bring about development. Our business isn’t about that – social enterprise is about showing people what they can achieve for themselves."’ Sancho's Dress 3 [Bekabil] Co-owner Vidmantas reassured us about the process, "Sancho's believe in transparent, ethical business, so we document all our steps in Ethiopia in our 'updates' section, and make people aware of where the funding goes and how it effects those in Debra Mark'os. For us, funding goes into: purchasing the traditional wooden looms and local Ethiopian cotton, paying our head seamstress (Maaza)'s wage, our distribution person (Dawit)'s wage, and then the other weavers' wages. The funds also go into film-making and documenting production costs and distribution. The last portion of the funds is reinvested back in to the business, to make us competitive and innovative in the market. This helps us build a sustainable business, designing new products, employing more seamstresses, reinvesting back into the Debra Mark'os community."  We said it's not easy trying to make a difference but supporting Sancho's Dress certainly isn't difficult... pledging just takes a moment. 11037002_731311466981497_1069110485422116194_n   Sancho's Dress, 126, Fore Street, EX4 3JQ Exeter, Devon, T: 01392 43914,  

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