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Teddy Bear Business To Help Blind Women In India

Fashion and textiles students from the University of Portsmouth are on the verge of setting up a business that will make a difference to the lives of blind women in India.

The student-run company will sell a variety of products made from cotton cloth hand-spun by blind women at a Convent in Chennai, India. The fabric was previously used to make hospital floor cloths. Converting it into unique products for retail in the West will earn a better and more stable income that will change the quality of life for the blind women.

Teddy Bears - Prototypes of the Teddy Bears

Students and lecturers from the BA (Hons) Fashion, Textiles Enterprise course visited the women at The Little flower convent to run workshops teaching them how to turn their hand-spun cotton into teddy bears, bags, table mats and other household goods.

Now they are about to establish a design and manufacturing company that will create and retail them in the UK and in Europe.

Fashion & Textiles Enterprise course leader Sue Noble was inspired by a visit to India in July last year and has been the driving force behind the initiative.

“We’re hoping that the global story behind the products and their development from a truly social enterprise will increase their marketability,” she said.

“The products are of a very high quality and utilise the positive aspects of the cloth which is unbleached, natural cotton, 100 per cent hand-made and dyes very well - qualities that add intrinsic value to anything produced from it.”.

The project is a result of a joint project between the University, the British Council and the Kothari Academy for Women, a community college in Chennai who will manage the Indian end of the enterprise and outsource the production of the goods to local self-help groups.

All profits from the business will be split between these self-help groups and the convent, while the students benefit from the practical experience of designing ideas and finding retail opportunities in a global marketplace – just as they would in fashion industry jobs.

The products have been market –tested, and have been exhibited at Portsmouth City Museum as part of a national Crafts Council exhibition, ‘Well-Fashioned’.

“The students had the opportunity to see how the cloth is woven and the conditions that it is made in, said Ms Noble.

“It was fantastic for them to connect with the people who had made the cloth and for the women to meet the students who had made the products.”

Ms Noble is in the final stages of setting up the business for her students who are currently looking for retail opportunities. Anyone interested in stocking these products should contact Sue Noble on 02392 843823

Rajiv Maharaj | alfa
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