By Mussa Muhammad
Kathy Marshall, a Canadian by birth but a twenty-year veteran of Ethiopia, founded an original silk garment processing company in 2004 which she still leads as the General Manager. Her passion for preserving the rich weaving tradition of Ethiopia combined with her desire to create respectful and ethical work opportunities for the local people have laid the foundation for the silk garment in Ethiopia.
Handmade textiles inspired by ancient weaving traditions of the nation, Sabahar Silk Garment Factory, makes an effort to create better manual accessories and linens for the home using locally sourced silk and cotton. Sabahar only uses natural fibers to create beautiful products. The company now has a range of products in cotton, silk, linen and wool. Both the cotton and silk are entirely local.
According to the company’s Production Manager, Shiferaw NIgussie, the company is the only company in the country that weaves Ethiopian silk into textile. All the products are entirely handmade from the rotating of the line to the weaving of the fabric. But the production level depends on the governments and NGOs awareness creation level to make out of periodic products in the country.
He says that Ethiopian artisans’ skills combined with their modern design, results in the creation of beautiful manually prepared products along with keeping the originality of artisan’s products locally. It focuses on the simplicity and purity of the raw materials and processes enabling them to create unique, richly textured textiles.
As well, the company produces uniquely designed, handmade cotton and silk textiles, among others. The products are entirely hand made from natural fibers. It also adds mainly three core values for traditional artisan. The company supports and trains artisans to apply their ancient skills to modern, fresh designs.
By providing the bridge between the artisan and the global market, they can provide reliable income for families and the nation.
Though weaving is an ancient craft in Ethiopia, silk was only introduced to Ethiopia about fifteen years ago. They adopted traditional technologies to new fibers and products. It remains loyal to tradition while adjusting to contemporary tastes of the national and world market. And in caring for each other the company’s products are made with care by people. It creates positive work opportunities in Ethiopia, with an emphasis on employment for women in different ways.
He furthered that company strives to create respectful, ethical and sustainable work opportunities for traditional artisans in the country. The private sector has a critical role to play in the development of a country and the betterment of its people.
It also avails both national and international market opportunities on which the producers can sell their products fairly. The company has also been supporting hundreds of people to earn salaries on which they can live and can get foreign exchange by sailing quality products with pure manually fabricated garments.
The products have so far been exported to more than twenty companies in thirteen countries and have a retail shop in Addis Ababa. They sell to wholesalers as well as to on-line shops and retail outlets. The company is also reducing the job opportunity burdens in the country.
In addition to these, all employees attend regular and comprehensive capacity building trainings. It is also outshining in empowering women. Fifty percent of the staff is women and about seventy five percent of the managerial positions are held by women which is a crucial role in the societal improvements in the nation’s tradition.
Furthermore, Sheferaw says most of their manually produced products are hundred percent cotton clothing. And he claims that purchasing the products helps the artisans, farmers, their families and their communities.
He added that when the community members have enough finance to contribute, medical facilities and schools will be built. Therefore, using local and manual products helps to improve the working conditions in the clothes industry and protects the planet.
Similarly, the company is also working to sustain quality, originality and availability sustainability and fashion ethics to motivate consumers to use the local products. It is also enabling consumers to think the people behind the products they purchase and environment when making choices about their clothing and other needs.
Moreover, he explained that the company is producing collections dresses, tops and skirts for fair trade. It follows modern trends while preserving traditional techniques such as batik printing and hand sewing as it is handmade to achieve a high quality a fair and living regular payment to the local producers.
At last, he told that emphasis should be given to the local producers to increase the local production of manually manufactured textile. And the consumers’ awareness should be enhanced to trust the local products. In the same way, the local producers need to focus on the needs of the community when they manufacture without compromising the quality. Their prices should be locally affordable. They need to continue investigating the suitability of their products to the changing environment.
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