On 26 February SPINNA Circle held an event at the Oriental Club showcasing the textiles of Central Asia and presenting the latest organisational developments. As guests arrived they were welcomed with refreshments and the chance to browse several tables featuring various types of traditional and contemporary handicrafts and textiles from the region.
In her warm welcome, SPINNA Circle’s Founder and Director Rupa Ganguli began the night’s presentation by introducing esteemed guests from embassies, industry and academia, highlighting the reasons for SPINNA Circle’s work in London, Central Asia and globally.
“In a large number of places around the world, women have amazing skills but are often not able to connect to markets and the fashion sector where these skills can be optimised” she stated. “SPINNA Circle aims to bridge this gap and to offer a business platform for women in this field”
Over the past year Rupa has worked tirelessly to forge global collaborations in a hub and spoke model, provide mentoring and inspiring women to work together to preserve traditional crafts whilst pursuing market solutions. They have also been instrumental with linking producers in developing countries with several major American and British fashion brands.
In November 2013, SPINNA Circle was the proud recipient of a grant from USAID’s Regional Economic Cooperation Project to fund a 10-month program in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan managed by the grant managing organisation – Chemonics. This program, Rupa explained, will see SPINNA Circle identify women entrepreneurs in fashion and textiles, promote their skills and products to international markets and provide expert business training to them.
“In Uzbekistan I visited a women’s collective that made Suzani and other beaded embroideries. They had huge catalogues of the kinds of products they were able to produce but when I asked them what they do with their product they said ‘we keep them’.
To Rupa, this response is all too commonplace and exemplifies the need for international collaboration and market access.
SPINNA Circle is helping small-scale designers by providing visibility for SPINNA Circle members’ brands through the online stories and newsletter and SPINNA Circle networking online platform. In addition to this, Rupa noted that she is thrilled to announce the launch of SPINNA Circle’s own online gallery where members’ products will be featured very soon. “This platform will provided our members with another portal for product sales and business connections to be made” she said.
Echoing Rupa’s message of collaboration, Emma Dick, SPINNA Circle’s expert on Projects and Training, spoke on SPINNA Circle’s training and mentoring program held in partnership with NatWest Bank which helps London-based female business owners in the fashion, jewellery, textiles and interiors sectors receive business training and personalised mentoring from the bank and industry experts. Areas that the mentoring has covered in the past include business development, branding, business presentations and pitches, product development and online sales.
Re-iterating SPINNA Circle’s core message of learning from each other and forging connections, Emma concluded her remarks by making an appeal to professionals with relevant business skills to step forward to discuss becoming a mentor to the SPINNA Circle training sessions.
Following Emma, SPINNA Circle’s Director of Product and Sales, David Eaton discussed the partnerships that have been formed between SPINNA Circle’s global members and retailers. “Companies are moving away from copying ideas from around to world to sourcing them directly as customers are looking for unique, authentic pieces” he said. “Because of SPINNA Circle’s work in Ethiopia, Anthropologie is now beginning a collaboration with SPINNA Circle to source cotton scarves from members of SPINNA Circle Ethiopia.” David was very excited at the prospect of working with Central Asia to bring age old traditions and techniques to the forefront of the fashion and interiors business. He was soon going to embark on a mission towards the end of March, early April to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to conduct the first series of trainings and inputs on product development and market trends to women artisans and entrepreneurs in the region.
As the evening continued, we heard from Monisha, a men’s jewellery designer making statement pieces out of fabrics and metals for today’s fashion-forward young men. Monisha discussed what her inspirations were for starting her business and how SPINNA Circle’s mentoring program and network has helped her develop and grow her business.
Lastly, owner and founder of Offset Warehouse, Charlie Ross, spoke about supplying environmentally and socially beneficial fabrics to designers in the UK and abroad through her website. Her knowledge of fabrics was clear as she discussed her background and showed us her ‘favourite fabric’ this week – made from Nepalese banana. She noted that with SPINNA Circle’s help, she hoped to source from several other countries and connect with women suppliers from across the world.
As guests were left to mingle and browse the various tables further, the enthusiasm to share and discuss textiles, business and global partnerships was palpable – a testament to the fact that SPINNA Circle has struck a chord with entrepreneurs, professionals, suppliers, buyers, investors and donors alike in its mission to facilitate collaboration in the world of fashion and textiles.