This year we’re proud to be partnering with Elimu Girls, a Kenyan non-profit that empowers young women through sewing education and skills training. To kick start our collaboration with Elimu Girls, we donated $10,000 to support their programming and mission, which supports young Kenyan women enrolled in a 2-year vocational sewing program at Heri Sewing College in Malindi, Kenya by making sure their tuition, room and board, and supplies are covered. Graduates receive a sewing machine, which increases their economic independence.
As part of our partnership, we’ve created a limited-edition doll wearing our classic wrap dress in Tea prints. Your tax-deductible purchase of a doll helps provide a safe space for vulnerable girls to live, learn, grow, and give back to their community.
Where the Story Begins
Marjorie Tan (Fashion Director), Nicole Waddlington (Textiles & Graphics Director), and Emily Craig (Creative Director) met with the Elimu team over three days in Malindi, on the coast of Kenya. They met students at the Heri Sewing College, taught a block printing class, met with local fashion designers and textile artists, and developed the pattern for our special Tea x Elimu Girls wrap dress.
The Tea team returned in 2023 for our Spring collection photoshoot and met with students at Heri Sewing College along with the artisans who fabricated the Tea x Elimu Girls dolls at the Artisan Maker Center.
There are four Pendo dolls (“Pendo” means “love” in Swahili. ), Carol, Nancy, Prisca, and Kadzo. Kadzo was developed especially for the Tea x Elimu Girls collaboration and features a Tea-favorite wrap dress available in six Tea prints. (matching child’s dresses available!) Kadzo is a typical Giriama girl’s name that means “beautiful girl”. The Giriama tribe is one of the largest in the coastal region of Kenya. Kadzo is derived from the Swahili word “mudzo” which means “beautiful.”
Kadzo’s Origin Story
Kadzo is an artisan-in-the-making, earning income that will help her buy livestock and save for her own home. Everyday life for a girl like Kadzo consists of fetching water, doing house chores and farm work, and often missing school to take care of her younger siblings.
Then Kadzo joined Elimu Girls and was sponsored to a 2-year sewing program. With her new, modern sewing skills, Kadzo returns to her village with a new status and perspective. She has gained a voice, a choice, and a bank account. Kadzo shares creative ideas, and speaks her mind about a better future for girls. As she grows in confidence and creativity, her choices in life expand too. Kadzo embodies the idea of endless possibilities for girls everywhere.
Elimu hired a small team of Elimu Girls alumni to produce the Kadzo. They receive a fair stipend and housing while they build up their own customer base and enhance their income generating potential. Elimu is calling it “Artisans-in-the-Making” and it forms part of Elimu’s Fashion and Design Program.
Embroidery has been a focused skill Elimu is developing to maintain the dolls’ unique handcrafted delicate features. Each doll is produced by an alumni of the Elimu Sewing Project, a young woman who’s future has been significantly improved by the income generating potential of her sewing skills and computer proficiency. The doll components are digitally patterned but hand tailored and the dolls’ faces are hand-embroidered.