The story behind the SJW Bags x Trinity Yard School ‘Trinity’ bag collaboration

Posted by Alev Ozturk on

SJW Bags is committed to blending modern, fresh designs with amazing artisan skills to create bold and colourful styles that break the mould. The new Trinity bag does just that, bringing together the traditional weaving skills of Ghana with the detailed leather workmanship of Istanbul. Dedicated to promoting and preserving traditional handcrafting in her designs, Alev believes in showcasing skilled local talent to a global community. Here Alev explains the story and design process behind this new style:
The new Trinity bag was a design collaboration with the Trinity Yard School (TYS) career development program, what is the Trinity Yard School project and how did you first hear about it? 
“My friends know about my passion to design bags with eco friendly textiles, using traditional hand-woven methods like my Ikat and Batik designs. 
During a very long hike (30 miles in 3 days!) with my St John’s Wood Women’s Club (SJWWC) across the Isle of Wight, we were discussing fundraising ideas, and the thought of collaborating with a charity on a special bag design popped into my head. I knew it would be a great way to raise funds for causes I believe in. 
Back in London, a philanthropist friend sent me some samples of woven Kente strips she’d been given as a thank-you gift by students of the TYS school. She knew I wanted to collaborate on a charity project and thought the TYS initiative would be the perfect fit. 
The Trinity Yard School is a charitable organisation in Ghana’s Cape Three Points, that supports the community youth with educational and vocational access where options are limited. Offering different programs that cover literacy and higher learning, they also provide vocational and training skills, placing students in apprenticeships and providing career counselling and professional mentoring for better employment opportunities.
                   
Students from the TYS program at the looms creating their designs
One of the vocational skills featured in their career development program is learning how to weave Kente cloth. Kente cloth is an important part of Ghanaian culture and heritage, originally the clothing of royalty and now used in celebrations like graduation ceremonies. Creating beautifully made fabrics that promote and preserve traditional crafts, it builds valuable skills for students to start their own businesses. 
I fell in love with the brilliantly bright and creative patterns they made and thought the traditionally narrow design would be the perfect size for a small cross body style.”
A section of Kente cloth ready to be cut from the loom
What was the thought process behind the bag’s creation?
“I get my inspiration for our designs from my daily life and friends in St John’s Wood, along with my Turkish/ Ottoman heritage.  My business is based in London, my leather craftsmen are in Istanbul (Turkey is one of the best countries for leather tanning), and the Kente fabrics I used in this collection are woven by the senior students of TYS school in Ghana. My aim is to build bridges between these 3 countries with my creations, preserving and promoting the wide variety of talent and skill found in different places around the world. 
During my work with TYS I heard about the African philosophy of Ubuntu, that places emphasis on 'being self through others'. It is a form of humanism which can be expressed in the phrases 'I am because of who we all are' and ‘ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ in the Zulu language. I realised with excitement this is the perfect example of this concept, as it brings together people from all walks of life, creating a positive butterfly effect of skill sharing and trade.”
 
The finished designs made into the Trinity crossbody pouch bag
Why did you decide to call the design the ‘Trinity’ bag?
“My bags are usually named after different areas around St John’s Wood, but this bag was a special exception since it was created in collaboration with the Trinity Yard students, and 30% of the proceeds are being donated back to TYS to help fund future projects.  I thought using the school’s name would be a nice way to highlight them and their initiative, whilst also making reference to the three countries involved in the bag's creation- United Kingdom, Turkey and Ghana.”
     
Our model Loretta (@_miss_lorrielle) - coincidentally a Miss Ghana UK finalist! - shooting on the streets of St Johns Wood

If you want to learn more about the Trinity Yard School, including ways to lend your support, you can find their website here.

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