Falmouth students have been lending their expertise to international social enterprise Made by Survivors, harnessing their knowledge of design, branding and the creative process to help empower disadvantaged women in Kolkata, India.
Led by BA(Hons) Performance Sportswear course coordinator Susan Shaw, students in fine art, fashion design, fashion photography and performance sportswear design collaborated with business majors at Babson College in North America. The result was a pilot workshop series, aimed to equip survivors of slavery and other human rights abuses with entrepreneurial tools for independence.
Susan explains, "Made by Survivors is an established social enterprise, they offer women shelter and assistance to overcome adversity, but also an economic way forward by providing a livelihood through goldsmithing." Unlike similar schemes, Made by Survivors avoids imposing western philosophies and practices, instead equipping the women with skills to produce globally appealing, high-end jewellery sold under the name Relevée.
"Made by Survivors wanted to encourage other skills through their programme – which is where the pilot study came in," adds Susan. "Falmouth and Babson students worked together to provide a comprehensive introduction to design and business, which could be delivered over several weeks in situ. The aim was to teach the women enough about the disciplines to identify their best fit in the programme. Perhaps it would be focusing on branding, product design or business management – the key was enabling the women to decide their own future, hence the name, Design Your Future."
Over a period of eight weeks, students worked alongside their US counterparts to develop sessions which would traverse language and cultural obstacles – employing their degree skills in art, design and fashion to produce a useable resource.
Grace Henecka from Falmouth's BA(Hons) Performance Sportswear Design explains what she gained, "Through the project I realised there is a real demand for designers to come up with systems that are beneficial to others. In the future, I want to go along a similar road and work on a project which uses my creative mind to produce products or systems that solve a real need. By breaking design back down to its raw ingredients and basic components, I learned that responsible designing happens when you create a want from a need."
Susan adds, "Though the project is hoped to help people overseas it's also going to be a great selling point for our students. Fashion houses and brands across many disciplines have ethics and social responsibility issues embedded at their core – so to have participated in an transcontinental collaboration like this, it'll be just invaluable to their careers."
The Design You Future project is one of many industry opportunities available for students to engage with while at Falmouth. A Design Your Future workbook will be available soon, for more information visit: madebysurvivors.com or relevee.com