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WHILE on a family holiday in Vietnam 11 years ago, Curtin woman Janice Bannerman had an idea.
It was an inspiration that would see her eventually open a clothes shop in Civic and, ultimately, employ 12 Vietnamese people under fair trade standards.
When Janice returned from Vietnam she told her close friend and neighbour Elizabeth Hall about the plan to begin Silk Sisters, a store that sells stylish and comfortable plus-sized clothes, while supporting and empowering women in Vietnam.
Elizabeth was eager to get involved and, with a passion for charity, she was an obvious choice for a business partner.
Now, with the Silk Sisters shop up and running for some time in Bailey’s Arcade, Janice says they’ve changed the lives directly of about 10 to 12 people who work for them.
“In Central Vietnam, Quang Nam Province, where I work, I have an in-country manager, Sa, who runs the business on the ground there,” she says.
“I design all the products, work with a cutter and have three full-time seamstresses.”
Janice says that these employees sew each piece of clothing by hand under fair trade working standards.
“I do the best of my ability to see the product from conception to show, and do the very best that I can to see that it’s fair trade,” she says
“We pay a good salary and our employees can take their children to work.
“Vietnam has a very strong family level and because of their cultural beliefs there’s lots of family holidays, too.”
Elizabeth, Janice and husband Chris have been involved in multiple charities in Vietnam, including Children’s Hope in Action where the Silk Sisters business supports the education of some disadvantaged kids every year.
For Janice, not only has the experience of Silk Sisters been rewarding, but through it she has gained an extended family and Sa, especially, has become like a fourth child.
“Sa has been to Australia twice to work with me. She knows the bodies of Silk Sisters’ customers,” Janice says.
“We work together but she is more than an employee, she’s more like a daughter.
“When I met her she was working in a tailor shop and taught herself English by talking to the tourists.”
As well as Sa and the women who make the clothes for Silk Sisters, there are also eight men working in a different location in Vietnam making “Broad Boots”.
“Silk Sisters’ boots and clothing are about comfort and style and feeling good in yourself,” says Janice.
“I’ve always been a bigger woman and I think because of that dressing well is more important.”
Silk Sisters. Bailey’s Arcade, Civic. Visit forbroads.com.au or call 6101 7406 or email firstname.lastname@example.org