I am working with tailors in village to create bags and accessories from their left-over material. You see, here in West Africa, appearance is extremely important, so people spend a sizable chunk of money on clothing. (Some volunteers have found that families will spend upwards of 25% of their total income on clothing and accessories--needless to say, we need to design and execute a proper experiment, but I am pretty sure we'll confirm this estimate.) For the most part, these clothes are actually tailored, which is where my project comes in.
You see, the tailors tend to just throw their scraps out with the trash. Throwing stuff out is rather common actually, so I guess that's why the tailors thought I was crazy when I told them they are throwing money away. After spending a few months getting to know them and their businesses, I decided it would be fun experiment to start mixing some of their scraps to make a patch-work item. I then had that patchwork made into a bag.
After the tailors saw that you could make patchworks from their scraps, we started to run with it. I decided to ask Daddy Bell for a sewing machine and a little bit of cash for start up for Christmas so I could really dig in and learn the trade with the tailors. Turns out I may have been a little premature in that request. I didn't end up buying a sewing machine, but I did buy a great deal of pagne (colorful printed cloth used to make clothing) and made some kick ass contacts in the pagne world of my region. With that pagne, I then went to the tailors to start working on simple bags. We made at least 20 simple drawstring bags for a store in Ouagadougou--the capital city of Burkina Faso-- and ended up selling all bags in less than two weeks. With the money from that order, we were able to turn around, and do another order of about 15 items for another customer.Unfortunately, my camera was broken for those orders, so I don't have the pictures to show you the first simple bag.(The tailors know nothing about the start-up money, but it should be noted that all start-up money has been made back, and now we are dealing with shear profits for the most part.) Eventually, we will start buying pagnes to create coordinated patchworks.
The good news is, with those two large orders, the tailors started coming around. Here, seeing is without a doubt believing. With the third round of bags, we switched from the simple two-sided/two-pagne bag to a rice-lined patchwork bag. We also added a smaller, more city-friendly bag for women, along with accessories such as cell-phone covers, iPod covers, and mens wallets. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was not able to get that order to its intended buyers. That said, the bags are still selling! More than half the the order has moved, AND the store owner in Ouaga (short for Ouagadougou) has placed another order for the beginning of May.
Needless to say, I am SO proud of my tailors! Oh, I completely forgot! THE TAILORS!
SO, I am working with three men and two women"en ville". In addition to these motivated individuals, I am working with the Maison des les Femmes' sewing room which is home to 16 girls and one extremely talented and motivated instructor. The plan is to use the proceeds from the bags to help buy sewing machines for the Maison des les Femmes. We are also going to be buying blackboards, as well as repairing whatever needs to be repaired. We are then going to have people come from the local micro-financing institution to teach the girls basic business skills! I think this is what I am most stoked about! Not only are these girls learning the art of sewing--literally couture in French--they will also be learning how to be good business women! How empowering is that? Over all, it is my hope that all who participate in the project will then turn around, and help lead the charge for the development of the community of Pama.
I am sure I have left a million holes in this post, but feel free to hit me up if you have any questions. I am working on actually typing everything up nicely in a report form. Once I have more data and what not, I'll post it as a pdf or something for you all to read.
Well, it's late here. I just wanted to get this post up before I go back to Pama.
I really am interested in your feedback so PLEASE comment, and send this link off to any and everyone you know! We have some sick models and what not coming out in the next month or so, and I am working on figuring out how to get stuff to the states.
Till the next post,