African fashion and textiles has been adopted by an ambitious young fashion designer who is working to improving the future of women across the world with her beautiful, ethical clothing and accessories. With a heritage that includes celebrated society artist William Shand-Kydd as her great-grandfather, Beshlie McKelvie combines her love of textiles and print with her skills as a trained fine artist, to create her line of garments that melds traditional craftsmanship with stunning design. She quotes Mahatma Gandhi agreeing that “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”
“My collection is a fusion of all I am passionate about.” says Beshlie “Beautiful design; traditional, authentic craftsmanship and the empowerment of marginalised women are at the absolute core of my ethos.”
Working directly with small cooperatives of women in India, South America and Africa, Beshlie’s pieces are not only stunningly beautiful but also ethical, directly benefitting the communities who produce them. She has harnessed the skills of block printers from Rajasthan, the Ngo Self Employed Women’s Association and Aymaran weavers from Northern Argentina and Bolivia.
Working with SOKO the production workshop based near the Tanzania border in southern Kenya, they have worked directly with the artisans and aimed to create sustainable fair trade employment as well as offering training skills to some of Kenya’s poorest of poor. The fabrics have been sourced locally using traditional printed kangas. This cloth has been a means of communication between women in the Swahili culture in east Africa generations.
The aim has been to raise awareness of the hugh issues facing women with HIV both in the uk and internationally through the work of Sophia – a network of women and organisations around the UK, part of the UNAIDS-coordinated Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. Their core objectives are towards the protection and promotion of the good health of women, in particular women who are HIV-positive or who are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Profit from the sales of these product with go to Sophia Forum.
Each Beshlie garment is hand-dyed and handmade, and so completely unique. Dresses are created in soft cottons, silks and georgettes and adorned with fine silk thread, appliqué, print and original vintage embroidery.
In relation to the collection made by SOKO-Kenya she tells us that
“I also worked with bombululu workshops in Mombassa where I have done textile and beaded work for the collection. It was amazing to work so closely with the artisans who hold such a strong spirit and the purpose of bombololu is to empower the disability socially and economically, and to enable them to realize their full potential in their lives.
The vision of bombolulu is “A Kenyan community where people with disability are economically and socially empowered and fully integrated into the society.”
With her collections already being snapped up in London’s hottest boutiques – including Designers Guild, The Cross and Pippa Small – and has launched in Ibiza and Paris this year, Beshlie’s collection is proving a captivating blend of beauty of purpose and beauty of creation.
We love this new take on the Khanga and love how SOKO-Kenya is working with more and more initiatives, designers and artisans worldwide. Support their work and see how far your support can go.
For more information and images please contact BESHLIE MCKELVIE at:
0044 786 5083 459
Author: Jacqueline Shaw