THE “SEAMSTRESSES” STORY
In the depths of the mountains of Qian Xinan, in South-West China, live a group of people, “the Bouyei”.
They who do not write, nor read, nor speak English, nor sketch.
Instead, they sing and they thread the most beautiful embroideries as a way to express the spirit and culture transmitted from generation to generation for thousands of years.
The women of this community, called “seamstresses”, write with their needles, and create gorgeous dresses and pieces of arts, embroideries and patterns.
They use plants to die clothes, cotton and linen (including linen roots) to stitch and design embroideries of flowers, butterflies, phoenix, and pear blossoms, mountains and rivers, the sun, moon and stars …
Grand mothers taught their daughters, mothers their daughters … these legendary skills are passed on years after years, with deep reverence to the ancestors and cultural heritage.
But sadly, with the modern society and rise in poverty, many within this unique community have moved away to start businesses and sell fruits in large cities. Little by little, such phenomenon is threatening to see this craft disappear.
Eve Group is leading China’s garment industry, having dedicated 23 years to the exploration and utilization of Chinese aesthetical concepts. With a heart for the common good, Eve Handcrafts was established – a premium platform for delivering Chinese handicraft DNA and services. The chairman of Eve Group and the founder of Eve Group China craftsmanship, Madame Xia Hua, has established 13 handicraft museums in China’s rural areas over the past 15 years, collating over 3,000 traditional Chinese embroidery drafts. To date over 5,000 female embroiders have participated in the platform to showcase their embroidery. The platform developed a targeted model to alleviate poverty in these regions.
Containing more than 3,000 patterns to provide inspiration to designers around the world, the platform connects more than 7,000 seamstresses and global companies.
Thousands of miles away, the most precious soul whose purpose is always to empower women across countries to achieve their dreams, Lady Barbara Judge, CBE, founded B&H with Madame Xia Hua in 2016, as a creative platform to allow young UK designers and traditional Chinese handicraft workers to cooperate on new concepts of fashion.
AN UNFORGETTABLE DISCOVERY
I had the deepest honor to be invited to attend the amazing event “Weaving a dream” at the Chinese embassy in London on September 11, 2017.
What a fantastic UK-China collaboration spearheaded by B&H social enterprise endeavor – stunning fashion exhibition and show! It was also the opportunity to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UK and China.
The Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom HE Liu Xiaoming and his wife, Lady Hu Pinghua, hosted guests from the UK business community, investment, fashion and culture, as well as media and education community.
H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming delivered a powerful keynote speech.
The 2 memorable lines of his talk, which will remain tattooed in my mind, were:
“We Chinese believe that rather than handing out fish to the needy, it is better to teach them how to fish.”
“John Keats once said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” […] I sincerely hope everyone present will cherish this night at the Embassy. I hope you will enjoy the beauty of fashion and the beauty of the Chinese culture.”
In the evening, four Bouyei singers performed ancient folk songs, traditionally sung during embroidering.
It was the first time that these ladies, the “seamstresses”, were taking a plane as part of this delegation and what a beautiful heart they all have!
The power of a smile is universal and speaks more than a thousands word … they kept hugging me and asking pictures with me and wouldn’t let me go… I listened to their stories with the help of the translator, and was in awe of one in particular, about the lady in their village who makes the colorful butterflies in this picture. She had been making embroideries of butterflies all her life, only butterflies, despite having only one hand as she had lost the other one in an accident … Unexpectedly, I discovered another inspiration of willpower in the face of adversity.
From dreams stem actions and new beginnings:
Lady Barbara Judge and Madame Xia Hua joined forces to insufflate hope and dreams again in this beautiful Chinese community.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The gift of traveling and discovering new lands and cultures resides in seeing the world with new fresh pair of eyes:
It is during a business trip that Lady Barbara Judge met Madame Xia Hua and identified the opportunity behind a partnership between the UK and China to bring the craftsmanship of the seamstresses to the world.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
The wisdom, skills and beauty of our ancestors resonate in modern times:
The stunning creating of the “seamstresses” are inspired from the mastery transmitted from generation to generation for thousands of years, and its beauty is timeless and perennial.
“The lights of stars that were extinguished ages ago still reaches us. So it is with great men who died centuries ago, but still reach us with the radiations of their personalities.” Khalil Gibran
You are never too young, or too old, to start a new venture or try something new:
Lady Barbara Judge is an inspiration of kindness and thoughtfulness, sharp business mind and incredible career journey, elegance and feminine grace, an empowering and positive energy light of those around her especially women, a force for good and philanthropic endeavors… And much more! She was just about to turn 70 when she created B&H, and no doubts she will continue to bring to life further successful business initiatives for many years!!
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Henry Ford
“Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.” Benjamin Franklin
“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Muhammad Ali
We all have the opportunity to make the world better, to make a difference:
Again, this is what the partnership between Madame Xia Hua and Lady Barbara Judge embodies unequivocally.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama
The power of resilience and positivity is stronger than any adversity and hurdle:
It was such a wonderful unexpected surprise to come across this inspirational example of beauty in the face of adversity, with the story of the one-handed lady in the “seamstresses” village in China, who had been crafting embroideries of breathtaking butterflies all her life despite her disability.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” Richard Bach
Creativity is a way of experiencing the world and the art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings:
The “seamstresses” using the most basic natural resources, plants and roots and flowers, to bring to live their sunning creations.
“Even if there are stones in your way, you can build something beautiful” Goethe
“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” Antoine de St-Exupery
Creativity, not possessions, is the deepest form of self-expression:
These ladies do not live in a community focused materiality and possessions, and they do not let what they own define them, instead their creativity and craftsmanship is how they express their unique beings.
“Creation is a better means of self-expression than possession; it is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.” Vida D. Scudder, The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poet
Don’t let a situation be taken for granted, use your creativity to solve problems:
Lady Barbara Judge and Madame Xia Hua had the foresight to imagine what beautiful creations could emerge between this remote community of “streamstresses” in the Chinese mountains, and designers around the world, and how this would contribute to alleviate poverty and preserve the ancestral craftsmanship of this part of the world.
“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” George Lois
“Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldous Huxley
“No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered with a searching but at the same time a steady eye.” Winston Churchill
“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward: they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The hands carry more heart than the machine, and technology can be an enabler to bring the heart of the hand to the world stage:
The appeal of unique handcrafted embroideries, fashion and pieces of art is even greaten in the modern world, and rather than seeing technology as an enemy, this social enterprise demonstrates how the internet can be a force for good to raise awareness and connect an offer and a demand across the world.
“The people who resist change will be confronted by the growing number of people who see that better ways are available, thanks to technology.” Bill Gates
A smile is a universal language and the number of faces you bring smiles upon, not money you accumulate, is a true measure of success:
Although I do not speak one word of Chinese and the “seamstresses” didn’t speak one word of English, beyond the Chinese translator who enabled me to discover their story about the one-handed lady in their village, we also understood each other via our smiles and hugs.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
Kindness is the language that the blind can see, the deaf can hear, and those who do not speak your language can understand:
Again, kindness is a universal power and universal language.
“Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. … Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” Mother Teresa
Listening touches hearts:
The four lovely “seamstresses” I met during this event kept hugging me and wouldn’t let me go, and beyond the smiles we exchanged I believe that the fact that I paused and listened to them, was curious about their art and the stories behind each piece, touched their hearts deeply and made them feel connected. It fostered a sense of belonging despite the fact we had never met, lived thousands of miles apart, and didn’t speak a common language.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Ralph Nichols
“Listening, the ears are the paths to the heart.” Voltaire