The project “Fashion Designing Hope” was conceived at the creation of the association to develop income-generating activities to support HIV-positive women. An adventure started in 2003 in South Africa. A short flashback on almost 20 years of creation and activity for several women’s support groups in Southern Africa.
It was in 2003 that the Fashion Designing Hope lightbulbs project began in Cape Town. This project, consisted of reproducing with beads, wire and silicon, the lightbulb designs imagined by famous fashion designers. It has given work for several years to around thirty women from Wola Nani, a local association of HIV-positive women.
following this flagship project, other projects have emerged, more focused on textile creations, creating an even closer link with the fashion world.
Thus, embroidery is rapidly becoming an important activity for women, especially in Eswatini.
To continue on the theme of light, a series of lampshades designed by fashion designers launched this embroidery project in Piggs Peak.
Designing Hope then organises an auction sale of ” Squares of Hope ” sold to the benefit of the association. 15 creators entrust the association with a drawing, reproduced in embroidery by the women.
In partnership with the association “Le Printemps des Poètes” in 2010, Designing Hope entrusts the women of Eswatini with the embroidery of about a hundred embroidered poems. Selected with the association, the texts were reproduced on fabric to be embroidered by the women. Half of them were interpreted graphically by artists and fashion designers. The group brings together nearly fifty women, carrying out meticulous embroidery and bead weaving work.
Between 2010 and 2012, the contemporary art fair Art Paris Art Fair, has organised a gala dinner three times to benefit Designing Hope in the nave of the Grand Palais.
On this occasion, the association entrusted the women of Eswatini with the creation of embroidered table runners reproducing, for the first year, the flower designs of 16 fashion designers such as Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Alber Elbaz then Christian Louboutin will sign the identity of the next 2 dinners, again with table runners embroidered according to the designs entrusted by the two creators.
Bead creations have also been entrusted to Zimbabwean craftsmen in Johannesburg, to make beaded versions of the flowers designed by the creators.
This collaboration will lead to another project with Alber Elbaz: the creation of dolls sewn and entirely embroidered by the women. An extremely meticulous work to create 1300 dolls, which will involve 80 women. The tasks will be divided up in order to involve as many women as possible, sometimes on simple activities for the most fragile, while the more expert women will take charge of the more complex embroidery.
The following year, a new series of dolls will be made, but this time the women will be entrusted with the making of the dresses, which until then had been made in Lanvin’s workshops. An additional challenge taken up by Designing Hope and the Women of Eswatini…
More about this project
Thus, over the years, the sewing workshop has been perfected: the women, equipped with professional sewing machines, have been able to develop their skills. All the more so as in parallel to these activities, the women of the sewing workshop also work for the local market through projects with local and social outlets (school uniforms offered to orphaned children as part of the “Uniforms and Difference” project, covid-19 masks distributed free of charge at the Piggs Peak Hospital in Eswatini)
The latest project to date is the Thebe Magugu Flower Project carried out for the Bon Marché Rive Gauche and which has had a considerable impact in terms of income generation as it has given work to almost 120 women, involving 4 support groups accompanied by Designing Hope in South Africa and Eswatini.
Click here to find out more about this project: Thebe Magugu’s Porte-Bonheurs at Le Bon Marché
Each time, these projects represent real challenges for these women and help them in their professionalization process. Indeed, over the years, Designing Hope has given more and more responsibility to women in project management. The local coordinators manage these projects in a professional manner, taking care to respect the deadlines, the quality of production, the involvement of women according to their professional capacities, always with the aim of opening the door to a maximum number of women in vulnerable situations:
These projects have above all a social aim, so the aim here is not to hire professional seamstresses, but to offer training to women, most of whom being affected by HIV.
These projects are also systematically carried out collectively, in a spirit of social inclusion, self-help and sharing that is specific to the objectives of the support groups.