Straw hats, beachwear and jewellery are some of the items artisans in Seychelles learned to make from scratch in a four-day workshop organised in the island nation last week.
The aim of the workshop held from 28-31 May at the Seychelles Distance and Open Learning Centre was to show artisans how to make use of raw materials to produce resort wear that appeals to tourists.
Around 10 local artisans learned production techniques such as sewing, tailoring, and dyeing cloth to make finished products in the craft segment of the workshop organised by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the international brand Phemke.
Speaking at the workshop, the founder and director of Phemke, Femke Speelman, said that there is a big need in terms of resources and hospitality in Seychelles.
"Yet there are numerous skills and art forms here in Seychelles that can be tapped into. Visitors want products that are made locally, and I gave a platform for artisans to show what they can do," she added.
The event was made possible through the coordination of the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF), a non-governmental organisation promoting sustainable practices through culture, environment protection, and tourism best practice.
"We ensured there was a space for the workshop to be held, reached out to our tourism partners and artisans, and brought some of the materials being used, such as cloth, straw, string, and others," said the organisation's project coordinator, Rossetta Alcindor.
The products made will be displayed and on sale at hotel boutiques and in other tourism establishments to help boost the local economy and support traditional craftsmanship.
One of the workshop participants, Gemma Dubel, owns her own store and has some experience in retail but was excited for the opportunity of creating her own products and tap into a larger market.
"It's challenging for us as artisans to get raw materials to work with or to know where to sell. Femke is showing us also how to market our products and she will be helping us in the sales too. I am happy for the opportunity to be able to reach a wider audience," said Dubel.
Speelman said she will be creating the link between hotel managers and boutique owners and the artisans. She will also be tapping into her already existing network that Phemke has on the international scene to assist the artisans in their product sales.
"Once artisans have developed enough products to be sold, either I or one of my team members will return to Seychelles to discuss a way forward for sales of items, quality control, and pricing," she said.
Details such as branding, logistics, demand and supply, and style will be determined as well. The key is for the supply of products to the tourism market to create fair wages for women making these retail products.
The training of local artisans is to help reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of small scale manufacturing.
Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, relies on tourism which is the top contributor to its economy.
The long term goals of this initiative is preserving traditional craftsmanship, involving communities, empowering local women in supporting gender equality and having a sustainable retail offer which reduces the contribution to landfill.
Phemke has successfully worked with women in countries like Madagascar, the UAE, Maldives, and Oman to create elegant resort wear that supports women artisans through training and fair wages for their products.