Creative Women

BY Lisa Lindblad

January 21, 2010

I met Ellen Dorsch a number of years back in the Handmade section of the biannual NY Gift Show, a wonderful, wide display of textured products and committed people.  Ellen founded Creative Women which is all about beautiful hand-woven textiles, about good design, and about improving women’s lives. They are a Vermont based company, working in partnership with six women-owned textile design studios in Ethiopia, Swaziland, Afghanistan, and Mali, to create traditionally-inspired contemporary accessories and home textiles. More than just designing and selling textiles, Creative Women works to promote equitable trading practices and to support women’s economic independence. 
“I founded Creative Women, Ellen says, “because I love beautiful things; I want to make a real difference in women’s lives; and I’m fascinated by travel. Creative Women allows me to do all three… by buying directly from women-owned businesses, by expanding markets for hand-woven textiles, and by paying fair prices for our goods.”
Creative Women began in Ethiopia. It grew out of Ellen’s experiences and travels. She saw sex workers training to be hairdressers, only to find there were no jobs available. She visited rehab centers where women were sewing and embroidering beautiful table cloths, but the only market for their products was a small bazaar for the ex-pats living in Addis Ababa. She realized that by finding markets in the US, an opportunity existed to improve women’s lives and to maintain a centuries-old art form by introducing the West to the beauty of Ethiopian textiles. 

For the past seven years, Creative Women has been importing elegant wearable accessories and accents for the home from its partners abroad. By finding markets for their handsome and unique products in the United States, Creative Women is supporting the emerging private sector in each of these countries and more importantly, creating jobs for women in societies where good jobs are rare.
They have played a part in the growth of all of their partner companies and today help provide jobs for over 300 people, from office staff, to weavers, to sewers, maintenance workers, and tea ladies.
Each of these energetic businesses brings something unique to their array of textiles. By taking centuries-old techniques and marrying them to contemporary design and then marketing them to local, regional and international markets, viable businesses proliferate, skills are passed down and cultural pride prevails.



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Art & Design Flourishing in Cape Town