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Take This Thread

Take This Thread

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

November 7, 2018

Empowering women through community and fashion.

"The act of sewing together with other people in the same kind of situation is therapeutic and allows for healing to take place..."

Fiona O’Connor, Joint Executive Creative Director at Havas Johannesburg, shares an inspiring campaign that tackles domestic violence and aims to give women a sense of independence, support, and safety.

 

Tell us a little about how the ambitious Take This Thread project came to be?

The whole concept comes from the idea that domestic violence, unfortunately, often follows a pattern, and more often than not, even when the abused partner tries to break out of the relationship or to get away, they often have to go back to their abusing partner. This is usually because their financial independence has been taken away, and they have no way of leaving and making it on their own. And so the cycle continues.

We wanted to identify this pattern of abuse and then to break that pattern by using a tangible pattern. Our pattern is a beautifully crafted fabric that, if you look closely, tells the story of abuse but is used by the women in the POWA safehouses to make headscarves, which are called “doeks” in South Africa and other garments that they can sell to become financially independent.

This is how the pattern of abuse will be broken. Also, the act of sewing together with other people in the same kind of situation is therapeutic and allows for healing to take place, for the women to feel the support of each other to help them through their ordeal, and for them to build their confidence. So it is an initiative that is good on an emotional level, too.

How did People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) get involved?

The idea was always intended for POWA, and when we approached them with it, they loved it and were immediately on board.

This project was in the making for three years. Were there any hurdles the team had to overcome during that time, and how did they get over them?

We needed to figure out tons of details, craft the idea over and over, and fine tune everything countless times to make sure it would really make a difference and not just be a feel-good idea that never really went anywhere. This included finding the right partners.

"We wanted to use the doek because it doesn’t hide the wearer—in fact, it frames the face beautifully."

South Africa has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. When working on a project this serious and sensitive, how did the team ensure all the right steps were taken?

This entire project was based on being acutely aware of the sensitivities involved in these situations.

Why start with the cloth, doek?

Clothes can be used to either attract attention or to hide ourselves. We wanted to use the doek because it doesn’t hide the wearer—in fact, it frames the face beautifully. There are so many amazing things about the doek. It represents confidence, pride, and beauty. We loved that it has historically been used to represent defiance in the face of oppression and that there is no right or wrong way to wear one.

Tell us a little about the unique fabric and patterns used.

The fabric pattern was inspired by shweshwe, which is a traditional cloth in South Africa. We wanted to design a pattern that alluded to shweshwe but was clearly distinctive in its own right. At first glance, the pattern looks like a normal pattern, but if you look closer, deeper in the design you will see the pattern of abuse depicted in a strikingly visual way. You will also see a man and a woman facing each other on either side of the pattern, and there are hands with scissors that are about to cut the links in the pattern—symbolizing the breaking of the pattern. Together with these visuals, we also have the story of abuse written in poetic words along the selvage, which forms part of the design.

For each of our colorways, we combined a traditional shweshwe color with a more modern one—again a nod to tradition but with a modern flair. It was important for us that the fabric remain authentic, so the fabric manufacturer we used is the one company known for printing shweshwe fabrics.

What did the team take away from this project?

The longer we work on it, the more we have been getting out of it. By working with the incredible people at POWA and Doek on Fleek, we’ve heard horrific firsthand stories of abuse, which have only motivated us further to make this project work.

Also, if you find like-minded people who believe in the same cause, everyone will come together and selflessly give their time or their talents for the cause. There are so many good people out there.

Where can people purchase the doeks?

Right now doeks can be ordered by emailing lutendo.mlimi@havas.co.za, but our online store will soon be up. They are also available at Doek on Fleek events countrywide.

Will Take This Thread be expanded in the future?

The plan is to continue growing. While we’re starting with doeks, we plan to eventually have a whole range of clothes and other items that use the Take This Thread pattern and generate an income for the women in the POWA safehouses.

How can people help raise awareness and help this cause?
Buy the doeks, follow our pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Like and share the posts, and of course use the hashtag #TakeThisThread. Most important though, it helps to understand what the pattern of abuse is, so that we may break it.

"The act of sewing together with other people in the same kind of situation is therapeutic and allows for healing to take place..."

Fiona O’Connor, Joint Executive Creative Director at Havas Johannesburg, shares an inspiring campaign that tackles domestic violence and aims to give women a sense of independence, support, and safety.

 

Tell us a little about how the ambitious Take This Thread project came to be?

The whole concept comes from the idea that domestic violence, unfortunately, often follows a pattern, and more often than not, even when the abused partner tries to break out of the relationship or to get away, they often have to go back to their abusing partner. This is usually because their financial independence has been taken away, and they have no way of leaving and making it on their own. And so the cycle continues.

We wanted to identify this pattern of abuse and then to break that pattern by using a tangible pattern. Our pattern is a beautifully crafted fabric that, if you look closely, tells the story of abuse but is used by the women in the POWA safehouses to make headscarves, which are called “doeks” in South Africa and other garments that they can sell to become financially independent.

This is how the pattern of abuse will be broken. Also, the act of sewing together with other people in the same kind of situation is therapeutic and allows for healing to take place, for the women to feel the support of each other to help them through their ordeal, and for them to build their confidence. So it is an initiative that is good on an emotional level, too.

How did People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) get involved?

The idea was always intended for POWA, and when we approached them with it, they loved it and were immediately on board.

This project was in the making for three years. Were there any hurdles the team had to overcome during that time, and how did they get over them?

We needed to figure out tons of details, craft the idea over and over, and fine tune everything countless times to make sure it would really make a difference and not just be a feel-good idea that never really went anywhere. This included finding the right partners.

"We wanted to use the doek because it doesn’t hide the wearer—in fact, it frames the face beautifully."

South Africa has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. When working on a project this serious and sensitive, how did the team ensure all the right steps were taken?

This entire project was based on being acutely aware of the sensitivities involved in these situations.

Why start with the cloth, doek?

Clothes can be used to either attract attention or to hide ourselves. We wanted to use the doek because it doesn’t hide the wearer—in fact, it frames the face beautifully. There are so many amazing things about the doek. It represents confidence, pride, and beauty. We loved that it has historically been used to represent defiance in the face of oppression and that there is no right or wrong way to wear one.

Tell us a little about the unique fabric and patterns used.

The fabric pattern was inspired by shweshwe, which is a traditional cloth in South Africa. We wanted to design a pattern that alluded to shweshwe but was clearly distinctive in its own right. At first glance, the pattern looks like a normal pattern, but if you look closer, deeper in the design you will see the pattern of abuse depicted in a strikingly visual way. You will also see a man and a woman facing each other on either side of the pattern, and there are hands with scissors that are about to cut the links in the pattern—symbolizing the breaking of the pattern. Together with these visuals, we also have the story of abuse written in poetic words along the selvage, which forms part of the design.

For each of our colorways, we combined a traditional shweshwe color with a more modern one—again a nod to tradition but with a modern flair. It was important for us that the fabric remain authentic, so the fabric manufacturer we used is the one company known for printing shweshwe fabrics.

What did the team take away from this project?

The longer we work on it, the more we have been getting out of it. By working with the incredible people at POWA and Doek on Fleek, we’ve heard horrific firsthand stories of abuse, which have only motivated us further to make this project work.

Also, if you find like-minded people who believe in the same cause, everyone will come together and selflessly give their time or their talents for the cause. There are so many good people out there.

Where can people purchase the doeks?

Right now doeks can be ordered by emailing lutendo.mlimi@havas.co.za, but our online store will soon be up. They are also available at Doek on Fleek events countrywide.

Will Take This Thread be expanded in the future?

The plan is to continue growing. While we’re starting with doeks, we plan to eventually have a whole range of clothes and other items that use the Take This Thread pattern and generate an income for the women in the POWA safehouses.

How can people help raise awareness and help this cause?
Buy the doeks, follow our pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Like and share the posts, and of course use the hashtag #TakeThisThread. Most important though, it helps to understand what the pattern of abuse is, so that we may break it.

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