Afghanistan used to produce fantastic silk, but it lost much of its talent and capacity over 27 years of conflict, explains Gabriella Ghidoni.
In 2005, Ghidoni, then an aid worker with the United Nations in Kabul, joined talents with two Afghan women to form Royah, a design co-operative with a two-fold mission: to revive the countrys rich history in textiles and embroidery, and to create sustainable job opportunities for local women.
The co-operative has grown to 20 women ranging in ages from 18 to 52. Out of a workshop in Kabul, they fashion contemporary coats, jackets and vests that merge an Italian design sensibility with Afghan handiwork, including hand-loomed fabricsilks, cottons and wools made by artisans in Mazar-e Sharif and the Chitral Valleyand hand-sewn embroidery that follow ancient Islamic and Persian patterns.
In its first few years, Royah only sold its pieces in Kabul. But its reach has since spread: Royah has shown its collections during fashion weeks in Paris and Milan, and its pieces are now sold in ten shops in Italy, including Gilli and Spazio Nur in Milan and Spazio Espanso in Rome. Royahs next goals: to employ more women and to create an educational center for young girls to learn Afghan handicrafts.