I have a new scarf that smells like coffee and honey.
A few months back, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia on a vacation with family. Our list of places to visit and things to do was composed primarily of historical landmarks and travel book recommendations, but there was one visit I hoped to make even though it would be off the tourist path.
FashionABLE, a non-profit I shared with you a year ago, aims to create sustainable business in Africa and job opportunities for women. These women happened to be working a mere taxi cab ride away from one stop on our vacation route.
I could not pass the opportunity up. Kiely, the fashionABLE communications liason on site at the time, was incredibly accommodating. A couple emails and a set of directions later, my mom and I were breaking away for a quick tour.
As we entered the small compound, I was struck by the bright colors. The buildings, the thread, and even the smiles seemed to glow in the sunlight, like hope and redemption had become visible. In light of that, I’ll let these images speak for me.
- Weaving, observed with the right eye, begins to look like a dance.
- Finishing off the ends of a scarf.
- Getting ahead by drying a good amount of dyed thread in the sun before rainy season begins.
- Kiely and me. Thanks Kiely for hosting us for a few minutes and allowing us the privilege of seeing this good work first hand.
- Look for this tag as you shop.
- This is the beautiful Feleku. You, too, can learn Feleku’s story. (By the way, Emily Maynard wore the scarf named for her this past season on The Bachelorette.)
- Scarves in the shop. You can buy items like these online.
- Spinning wheels.
- I’m fascinated by the looms and tools – shuttles, bobbins, and thread.
I enjoyed learning a bit about weaving and the business side of things, but I particularly enjoyed hearing more about Women At Risk, a partner organization of fashionABLE. Women At Risk is a rehabilitation program for former sex workers. The program provides these women with counseling, teaches them skills and trades, and helps them find employment. After our tour, we shopped in the modest storefront where they were selling not only scarves, but other items made by women who have come through the Women at Risk program. I selected a couple of bars of scented soap – milk and honey, and coffee – and a unique scarf made while teaching techniques.
In an effort to handle these items with care and get them safely home, I wrapped the soaps in the scarf. Yesterday, I pulled my scarf out of my closet and noticed the scents still linger.
The fashionABLE fall line was introduced today, and if you browse their lookbook (which I highly recommend) you may just see a few of the scarves on the looms in the photos above. I intend to order one myself. Select one for yourself and order now! I doubt it will smell like coffee and honey upon arrival, but you can wear it knowing faces of the women’s life changed by this effort and your purchase.
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