Every now and then a designer or label appears in my inbox with a story so moving and beautifully written that it becomes very clear that all I need to do is get out of the way and let it speak for itself. This is very much with the case for SEDA ; a slow fashion label working with indigenous artisans and on a mission to take you back to your roots.
The following words are from SEDA’s founder, a Uyghur/Uzbek migrant WOC named Denara. I hope this story lights you up like it did me.
Words by Denara Amat
“My name is Denara, I am an Uzbek/Uyghur migrant who moved to Australia when I was 12. I was born and raised in a country called East Turkestan. You may not have heard of this as it is a country that no longer exists. Like Tibet, my country is being wrongfully occupied, my people have been turned into slaves, living in detention camps and forced into labour for major fast fashion labels.
When I migrated to Australia 15 years ago, I didn’t even know I had my own country, this was the level of brain washing I had been fed. Whilst adapting to a new country and learning English, I was also learning and unlearning so much as well as coming to terms with the fact that I will never see any relatives again. On top of that (classic puberty blues) I was very lost and confused.
After taking linguistics at Uni (I love learning languages so much) I went to Colombia to travel and to learn Spanish. I ended up being so welcomed by different indigenous communities who shared with me their stories of colonisation, survival, food and their traditional art and crafts.
They taught me to turn my pain into my power. They really empowered me to find my voice again.
I fell in love with the traditional art in Colombia, especially beaded jewellery. At first I bought some jewellery for myself, then I remember asking the artisans how they are made and how long it takes, and they told me it takes up to 12 hours to bead a pair of earrings and 3 weeks for the necklaces. Most of the artisans would bead weeks on end without making much money, it’s just not considered modern anymore and severely under appreciated.
There are two ways a culture gets washed away, through colonisation and through modernisation. At this point, it all clicked, as I thought about all the history and traditions of my people that are washed away as well as my own experience of working for fast fashion labels that brought me no joy. I wanted to create something and give back to these communities that helped me find my voice. I ended my trip early and used that fund to begin SEDA. I initially worked with 2 artisans and we made a handful of necklaces and designed earrings together.
I bought the jewellery back to Australia and began SEDA in 2018, initially as a side hustle whilst still working a day job. I did markets like Finders Keepers and very quickly our statement jewellery became loved by many.
We grew to 9 artisans by mid 2019 when GORMAN approached us to collaborate, which went live in 2020. We were then able to grow and offer work for over 30 communities.
Thanks to this collaboration that we still work with today, most of these families now rely solely on SEDA for income as most of Colombia is shut and with no tourists. Then we expanded further and began making one of a kind sandals with a different community in Colombia, using up-cycled vintage textiles.
This year despite the ups and downs, we took our partnership through Colombia and beyond, by working with artisans along the ancient Silk Road, making one-of-a-kind coats using textiles of my childhood. It is through this that we give back to Uyghur supporting initiatives.
We are telling stories of cultures through colours and through this migrants eyes.”