Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sustainable Sewing

Suhr-so-dai! Hello again from Cambodia! Even though it's meant to be Head Office's turn at reporting the goings-on, too much is happening over here to wait another whole 2 weeks!

A month ago now, we had a special visitor scheduled for Senhoa. Leading up to his arrival, I received a bombardment of emails from management encouraging and reassuring me that I’d do a fantastic job at hosting THE Thien Le.
I was scratching my head: who?

Thien Le is one of Toronto, Canada’s most prominent designers, specializing in exclusive couture for the individual woman and man. As I read up on him and clicked through his runway shows and collections, I started laughing at my ignorance when I finally Googled him; I, the most un-savvy label fashionista, was hosting, punching and joking around with a fashion celebrity.

Senhoa Head Quarters had used its connections and charm to rope in the Canadian/Vietnamese designer to train the girls in Battambang branch of our partner shelter to make bags and kimonos as merchandise. The Battambang branch of our partner shelter has a sewing vocational training program. Senhoa proposed this small project to provide the girls with training in sewing and pattern making, as well as design good quality merchandise to make and sell in the United States and abroad, and to promote the work of both organizations.

Thien was a bundle of enthusiasm, squealing with delight (‘Oh My God, this is so COOL!!) from the airport in the open air tuk-tuk on which we picked him up. He was so excited to be in a new country to offer his talents to those who can benefit so significantly.

Our special guest was welcomed warmly with songs and dance by the girls which he received both shyly and graciously. Thien was given the tour of the shelter, our office and the classrooms, and see the Senhoa Program in action. I beamed with pride as they animatedly chatted to him about what they’ve learnt so far and how hopeful they are about their futures.

When training commenced the next day in Battambang, Thien dove straight in and showed the girls how to silk screen, how to cut fabric with accuracy, how to utilize fabric sparingly, how to adjust machine tension according to fabric thickness and other tricks of the trade. Thien was deeply impressed by the girls’ keenness to learn and how quickly they picked up his lessons. By the end of the 4-days, the girls had worked together in teams of four to make samples of the reversible Love Rescue Heal tote, and sophisticated kimono wrap.

Everyone cooperated so promptly that Thien even had time to cut and restyle most of the girls’ hair! (‘Wow, seriously, I need to bring over a TEAM to deal with this.’) Even mine! (‘You look like a girl, again!’)

We are so privileged to have Thien generously give his time, pro bono, to share his knowledge with us in Cambodia. This newly developed relationship between Thien and Senhoa has great implications for future merchandising and fundraising to create wider awareness of the Anti-Human Trafficking movement.

Thank you, Thien Le, our Fashionable Friend! We hope to see you again in the Kingdom of Wonder to work some more Wondrous Magic.

Check Thien out at www.thienle.com

With Hugs and Kisses from the Field.