Ethnic clothing store promotes work of refugees

April 17, 2018

Ethnic clothing store promotes work of refugees

Ms Ahmed is proud that her store can create ethnic clothing for New Zealand women. Photo: Leilani Sitagata.

New Zealand-based ethnic fashion label Cotton Seed has opened a store in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill.

Cotton Seed is a label selling clothes using with materials from all around the world, made by ethnic people for ethnic people.

The label has just opened its first store, Fusion Collab, in Mt Roskill.

Behind the label is a non-profit organisation called  New Zealand Ethnic Women’s Trust (NZEWT).

NZEWT’s director Fadumo Ahmed says the label employs women from many countries and refugee backgrounds.

This organisation recognised the hardships some women face when entering New Zealand society, and particularly how hard it is to find a job.

Since a school to teach women sewing skills was created, a clothing label was developed and now a store which sells the work of the women from the school.

Ms Ahmed says New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of clothing from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, so this store provides it.

Ms Ahmed says this store predominantly produces African, South Asian and Middle Eastern clothing because New Zealand currently does not.

“It is a good opportunity for the women to have a space to display what they learn from the school.

“Because the women are new Kiwis, they will learn together and support each other.”

Ms Ahmed says that the skills the women gain allow them to create their own clothes to sell at markets or start their own business from home. The store is a new way for the women to sell the clothes they make.

Project facilitator for NZEWT Adorate Mizero says the label represents many ethnic groups.

“I appreciate being part of this because the women that are behind this have a story, and
there’s an importance there.”

Pakistan-born Shabana Firdous says she joined the Cotton Seed team six months after moving to New Zealand.

Ms Firdous says working for the Cotton Seed label gets women like herself out of the house and socialising with people from similar backgrounds.

She says this made settling into a new country not only easier financially, but also emotionally by having support from women who can relate.

“When you create something, it feels nice and seeing people like your work - you feel happy.”

University student Carol Muodza says it is hard to find stores in New Zealand selling clothes that represent her African roots.

“I think it’s so exciting being able to walk into a store and pick out African clothing, rather than getting tailor made clothes or paying crazy shipping costs.”

Ms Muodza says she feels included and acknowledged when she sees things from her culture made accessible.

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