When I first met Ana, I was on a mission to find a sustainable factory in India with empowering women at it's heart. Through a friend of a friend and an acquaintance of an acquaintance - and several months of emails we finally sat together in a sun drenched Hawkes Bay cafe. She was on a two month visit back in her Aotearoa - having moved to India 8 years earlier with her hubby and three kids. With smiling face she tells me, "it was the food, we've always loved Indian food". But this comment, peppered with a warm giggle belies the bigness of her heart, and the deep seated yearning she had had to immerse herself and her family into Indian culture - so that she could watch and learn from those around her.
It is with deep reverence that she shares with me her India stories. Her heart both heavy and full in the same breath. She tells stories of peppy female ingenuity muscle-ling bravely against need. She talks of hardships and victories. She talks of growth and change - the bigness and slowness of it in a country often bound together by tricky paper trails, a mail system that only sometimes works, and a pedantic power grid with a mind of its own.
She and her family had found themselves in the small community of Bhalupali. As the family settled into daily routines she ached to give back to the people she had so much humble respect for - and so she did. Giving back for Ana meant using what she knew. She calls it her passion, I call it her superpower.
Ana trained in pattern making and design at The Design and Arts College of New Zealand in the 1990's - although her love of sewing hadn't started then, but years earlier in a powerless rain forest with a peddle machine. She couldn't have asked for better training in that rain forest. The training centre and workroom she now runs in Bhalupali is also often without power - peddle machines are status quo -
With these skills, passion, experience and a BIG heart Ana saw and met a need for local women, who so often do not have a separate identity from that of their husbands and fathers. That means no identity card, no opportunity to even have a power account in their name, and no authority in pivotal decisions for their children. Being trained in a marketable skill, and even better, being employed using that skill is a game changer for Ana's local women. They wear their 'employed' status with pride. They have a say in how their money is used in family finances - being able to feed their children how they choose to, to buy shoes for them and send them to school. Gradually they develop a sense that they are valued, that it matters what happens to them, they discover a voice they didn't know they were allowed to have.
Ana has so far trained 200 women and employed seven. And I want to see that number grow.
That's why for Summer 18 Ana and I are teaming up to make 'tailored comfort and style without compromise'. The first production run is well under way to their signature high standard - and I can't wait to see the result - not just in beautiful clothes you will love to wear - but in lives changed for our locals on the other side of the world.
Find out more about HoliBoli here - https://www.holiboli.com/pages/about-us