Women move mountains: artisans collaborate with fashion designer Stella Jean in the Peruvian Andes

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Kyrgyz mountain women collaborate with fashion designer Stella Jean

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MP Ambassador Stella Jean

Stella Jean – an Italian-Haitian fashion designer – was appointed Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador on International Mountain Day 2021 in recognition of her work with mountain women artisans from Kyrgyzstan.

For many years, Stella Jean has been collaborating on collections with women from developing countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The focus of her work is to promote fashion’s potential to provide significant opportunities for decent work for both men and women around the world, while ensuring important cultural knowledge does not disappear forever.

Jean was introduced by the Mountain Partnership and the Women’s Committee of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to the work of a women’s collective in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Called Topchu, the artisan group created carpets, clothes, silk scarves and wall hangings using traditional Kyrgyz feltwork. With support from the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative, a project funded by Italy and implemented by FAO, she started a collaboration with the women to produce and market their products. Together, they found a way to transform a traditional Shyrdak motif typically used for carpets into a pattern for contemporary clothing. Ultimately, they created a collection that was displayed at Milan Fashion Week in February 2021, to critical acclaim.

Now the women are further building their economic autonomy, preserving their traditions and at the same time gaining a place in the global market. They have been able to boost their incomes, support their children’s education and expand their vegetable gardens.

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