Our partners are small and start-up labels where it’s important to know how the product is made and who makes it. We realise that starting from scratch to develop your label, or up-scaling production when demand for your home-made designs outgrows your capacity to keep up, is both scary and challenging. Zenana Women exists to support new labels in getting started and then in growing. We have no set formula for the process of development, and we don’t set a timeframe that must be complied with. We understand that there are budgetary and time constraints when starting a new business and we try to work within those, to suit you.
We are working with all sorts of textile designers, of both fashion and homewares. From the experienced designer tired of working for the big brands and starting her own label, to those coming to fashion or homewares from other careers, from retailers wanting to create a label for their stores to the time-poor young mum passionate about the environment and wanting to create a sustainable product on a shoestring budget, our partners are diverse in their experience and their ambitions.
What is common to all our partners is their commitment to fair pay and working conditions for those who do the manufacturing, and their wish to be a part of improving the lives of a few poor families.
These designers are truly partners. We work collegially, learning together and helping each other out as much as we can. Our design partners are also in touch with each other, though few are based near each other, and where possible we organise to meet just to chat and share stuff. Our partners ask us to do new things: we try and we all learn from the attempt. Sometimes we have to admit that small-scale production does have its limitations and there are things we can’t do, but Team India is highly resourceful and doesn’t admit defeat readily. We all share new contacts, suppliers and ideas, so we can all learn and grow.
When new designers come on board as partners, we spend a lot of time discussing their needs, what they want to achieve in what timeframe, and how best to get started. This is done with Team Australia, usually with Penny, via email, phone calls or Skype, and meetings if at all possible. When we’re ready to start work, Team India is brought into the loop and the designer works directly with the managers of the production unit.
Living in one country and getting work done in another can be scary, especially when sending funds to an unknown business in a developing nation. There are enough stories around of scams to be off-putting, so we understand prospective partners will need reassurance from independent sources.
New, inexperienced or start-up designers are those we want to encourage. There are plenty of production houses who will make a thousand units but won’t look at smaller orders. Big companies and established designers have their suppliers to match their scale, but it can be difficult for someone starting out to find the scale of production they need. That’s where we fit in. We have no minimum order at all!
What can be worse is the tension between needing to know things and feeling like the questions are silly or naive. We’ve been there: we know how it feels. We’re happy to share all we’ve learned and to admit what we don’t know. Yes, this is business, but it can be kind, flexible and understanding.
Find out more about working with us as a partner by going to our Frequently Asked Questions.