Fashionable Fabrics For A Cause: Vlisco Raises Over $500K For DRC's City Of Joy

From a media release:

Vlisco Raises Over $500K To Help Female Survivors Of Violence In The DRC

The donation will fund the building of a creative and textiles school in the City of Joy 
Vlisco to relaunch collection targeting $1M in donations

November 2020 – Dutch wax textile fabric company, Vlisco, is donating a total of $512,000 (USD) to fund a new fashion school and production workshop in the City of Joy, a women’s transformational sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The announcement marks one year since the company launched a special collection honouring the “world’s strongest women,” symbolising their recovery from rape and trauma, and their journey from pain to power.

City of Joy Collection
City of Joy collection by Oritsegbubemi Ogisi - Photo by Atong Atem for Vlisco

The original collection was showcased to a global audience by the women of the City of Joy at a gala event in Kinshasa on November 25th 2019. Five female, African fashion designers were asked to make garments for 15 of the graduates from the City of Joy, including Tolu Coker, Aisha Ayensu, Oritsegbubemi Ogisi, Rebecca Zoro, and Abiola Adeniron-Olusola.

To mark the 2020 UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and raise further donations and awareness for the centre, Vlisco is releasing an exclusive new collection of fabrics that is available to buy now in Europe and the USA. All profits from sales will be donated to support the ongoing needs of the City of Joy.

The City of Joy is a transformational leadership community for women; survivors of brutal rape and mutilation by soldiers and civilians, who use women as weapons of war. Located in Bukavu in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, it provides a place for them to overcome pain and stigma to emerge as confident leaders, ready to go back to their communities and pass on the message that power can come from pain. The partnership with Vlisco aims to put an international spotlight on the issue of sexual violence in the region.

The new textile and creative school will empower the women going through the rehabilitation process to learn new skills that will help them to reintegrate into society. They will be coached by members of Vlisco’s network of creative talent, including Brand Creative Director and Director of Vlisco&Co, Gabriela Sánchez y Sánchez de la Barquera and design experts from Africa and the rest of the world.

City of Joy fabrics

Up to 30 Congolese women each year will undergo training at the school, which will house dozens of industrial textile machines and a hangar for the production of traditional Batik fabrics. Students will be taught the craft of African textiles but with a creative, forward-looking perspective. Once established, the City of Joy aims to build commercial partnerships for the school in a bid for the sanctuary to continue its efforts in helping women not only from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but across Africa and the rest of the world.

“The spirit of creativity will be the motto for our fashion school. Our global objective is that one day the City of Joy can become financially sustainable and it is therefore important to be able to create products that could be sold on the international market and around Africa. Through this new school and creative opportunity and with the help of Vlisco, the City of Joy will have longevity and help the lives of so many more women,” said City of Joy Co-Founder and Director, Christine Schuler Deschryver.

Vlisco City of Joy fabrics

A brand-new look

The new 2020 collection features the five bold and bright printed super-wax fabric patterns reprinted in different colours, giving them a completely different look. Each of the new designs will comprise five colours instead of the three – a first for Vlisco in its 174-year history of traditional wax printing.

The fabric designs, created by Gabriela Sánchez y Sánchez de la Barquera, depict a journey from pain to power and sorrow to joy and represent the vagina as a beautiful flower; a powerful statement against the stigma of sexual trauma and mutilation suffered by over one thousand women in the Democratic Republic of Congo every day. 

Vlisco CEO, David Suddens, said, “It was thanks to the women of Africa who bought these designs that we were able to donate the profit of $512,000 to the City of Joy. We hope now that the new version of the collection will be bought by people in Europe and the USA, and we are calling on everybody to donate to and support this amazing and critical project.

“When we asked the women of the City of Joy how they wanted to spend the money raised, they were unanimous in the decision to build a school. We hope, like them, that it will create opportunities and help rebuild lives.”