Model quits the catwalk to teach sewing and fashion design to underprivileged women in Kenya

September 19, 2021
Clothes & Fashion
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A former model has ditched the catwalk to teach sewing and design to underprivileged women in Kenya.

Starting last year, Maja Kotala’s Sewing Together school has now partnered with the Salvation Army Kenya and 20 graduates with their own products being available to buy online.

The 30-year-old from Chorzów said: “I have just finished with one group who are ready to fly. The next group has started and they have amazing energy.

“They want to change their lives, they want to help me in changing the lives of other people and I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful.”

Based in the Bamburi district of Mombasa, the free courses teach students not only how to create clothes but also start their own fashion line.

Classes also include yoga and meditation on the curriculum.

Kotala came up with the idea after losing her Paris modelling job due to COVID-related problems and losing her father.

Having previously studied fashion design in Australia, Kotala decided she wanted to use the skills that she had learnt to empower women in Africa by teaching them to sew.

She said: “Uganda was the first trip and I have to admit I didn’t like it. I came back home it was so hard. The culture difference was so big, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue with it.

“The love I felt inside of me for Africa came back so I decided to give it a second chance and went to Nairobi.”

Following her father’s death she found strength in helping the women out and vowed to continue on with Sewing Together.

Kotala said in a video on her YouTube channel: “I wanted to know why life was testing me so much, I lost my job, my life in Paris and now a parent.

“Why are you doing this to me? I stayed in Poland for four days before returning to Mombasa because I had those women waiting for me, believing in me.

“They wanted to change their lives and I was supposed to be the person who they did that with.”

As well as teaching the women in the group about sewing and designing clothes for commercial sale, the project also is fighting menstrual poverty with their reusable pads.

The Sewing Together websites says: “Due to the lack of adequate protection, young girls during menstruation are often forced to use leaves, feathers, or even sand. Many young women even stop going to school.

“It creates gaps in education and often leads to expulsion. Sewing Together reached out to Polish fashion houses seeking help, from their offcuts we make pads!

“All in a spirit of sustainable, zero-waste fashion.”

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