Thai Artisans collaborated with nine Italian Designers to form a highly successful and equally rewarding partnership which they named Dignity Design. Since January 2011, these designers have been working with women living in extremely marginalized areas: encouraging new skills, ideas, and techniques in order to provide for a more modern and high-end collection of home décor and accessories. They work with the artisans' existing skill set, and only guide them with new concepts that may be new and more marketable for international buyers. It is a 50/50 collaboration. All designs are sold under HandCrafting Justice's wholesale department, an NGO that provides new markets for artisan goods worldwide. HCJ Volunteer Theresa Baxter states, “First it is the dignity of the Thai artisans who express their skills and deep cultural ties through unique and refined production techniques. Secondly, it is the design, the creation, and passionate process developed by Italian designs that ensures the high quality of these fine products.”
This networking initiative was established with the mission to work with the most impoverished regions in north and northeastern Thailand, as well as in the slums of Bangkok. For example, HCJ has been connected to the Fatima Self-Help Center, which employs approximately 154 women, and was established by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Bangkok in 1979. The Center is situated in one of the poorer slum areas of the city, where alternatives to undignified employment and exploitation are difficult to find. Through the work of the Fatima Center, many women have been able to improve their situations greatly, access educational opportunities, and provide for their families. The three centers ultimately combined, providing training and employment for up to 200 women who are taught valuable skills, including embroidery and sewing.
These Thai women are also being trained in dressmaking and needlework, as well as how to make baby smocked dresses and other accessories. Theresa says, “Designers have been collaborating with women from the Isan Weaving Center, which and working to revitalize the ancient tradition of Matmee, which means “tied strings," while also making the fabric dye resistant and even more beautiful. Many others organizations include Hands of Hope, where artisans are reemployed to create unique paper products, as well as the Isan Pottery and Jewelry Center where they produce pieces using clay from the banks of the Mekong. Designers have also been working with Chiang Rai Handicrafts, who are known for their fine embroidered accessories which use patterns inspired by traditional Thai iconography.
Designer Patrizia Scarzella says, “It is a wonderful feeling to see how easy and quick it is to work and create a successful line despite the language and the need of translation: There is a common and natural understanding among women of different cultures and countries around fabrics, colors, patterns, home, and fashion accessories, as if these subjects were in our DNA! It’s also amazing to see how strong their curiosity is when it comes to learning and improving their knowledge and skills.”
In January 2011, HCJ launched their first collection at the New York International Gift Show. Due to their success and positive feedback, they will be attending again this August. For more information, please visit
For more information, please visit http://www.handcraftingjustice.cedris.org