10 months ago, I stumbled on a new cotton label on the net, Zenana. I made inquiries and that's how I connected with lovely Penny. One very rainy evening Penny, who had been driving all the way from Sydney dropped in on her way to Grafton to show me the Zenana range.
Penny has a big heart for women of India that struggle with poverty, HIV/aids, unemployment and other needs. Having lived and worked in India for many years with her husband Harry, after moving back to Australia, Penny was moved to develop a business idea to try to help these women.
The concept of Zenana Women centres around the beautiful hand-done embroidery local to the city of Lucknow, India. It is high-quality, labour-intensive work. The traditional embroidery of the Indian city of Lucknow is featured in the designs. The women of Zenana are paid a fair wage for their beautiful work as they should be.
IN PENNY'S OWN WORDS......
Our mission is to offer people in need the independence of employment and training in an industry that is familiar to the local community. This is not charity, but social enterprise. We are dedicated to empowering poor women – ours is a business run by women for women – and from this whole families will benefit.
Our Indian company offers the dignity of employment and fair pay, and all of its profits are dedicated to growing its capacity to employ, train and support the families of the women it has been established to assist.
Penny showed me Indian silks, cottons and linens, including hand loom fabrics and hand-done prints, with embroidery in cotton and silk thread, and gorgeous evening wear in Georgette with beading and sequins. For me of course, it really was all about the organic cotton range and so I tried to focus on that.
Greenroom Gallery ended up with a small range of cotton tunics and tops with gorgeous embroidery. I also ordered two 'Charlotte's Dress' as a trial. One sold very quickly and one is still here. This is the 'Charlotte's Dress'.
I am really pleased that I have the opportunity to work with Penny and support Zenana.
‘Zenana’ is an Urdu word for the women’s quarters of a segregated household. To us it represents the constraints in the lives of women, but also the freedom they have within those limitations.