Make a virtue of necessity: these words sum up the effort of Barbara Montanari, a mother with two children, one of whom has Down’s syndrome, who was fired because she had to take so much leave to take care of her daughter and her needs. But this brave woman didn’t give up and decided to put her 15 years of experience in fashion and in social planning to good use, striving to enhance what makes her such an extraordinary mum. Hence the idea of Sartorie Leggere, an entrepreneurial project for inclusive dressmaking that aims to give jobs and raise awareness on the topic of work and social inclusion for people with disabilities.
Their top line is the so called “Pagine Tessili (fabric pages)”, t-shirts with embroidered sentences and poems by Sara Yakoubi, a 23 year old with Trisomy 21 who attends a group of poets made up of university students and an aspiring writer with a book in the works. “At Sartorie Leggere, she is an author to whom we pay copyright fees for each piece that include her texts, and she is also a copywriter who has created some catchphrases for us: it was a very important step for her because she got out of the context of disability and integrated into an equal one, and she has understood that the path of poetry is relevant beyond her family and educators” Montanari explains. A 76 year old lady takes care of embroidery, saying that she is happy to pass on her skills with the tools to young girls.
The idea of putting Yakoubi’s words on t-shirts comes from the social media manager of “Sartorie Leggere”, Elena Rasia a 27 year old radio speaker with a great passion for social media, in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy that affected her mobility. She was the one who contacted the Bolognese group Lo Stato Sociale to promote the business: a bet she won, as Lodo Guenzi and the rest of the band have become testimonials for the shop. “’Sartorie Leggere’ is a beautiful thing. One of Sara’s creations that embraces her Down’s syndrome and turns it into poetry every day. They gifted us these five t-shirts. We would like it to be an opportunity to fight prejudice. A chance to remind everyone of how much still needs to be done to give these kids the same opportunities”, the members of Stato Sociale declared.
This is an excellent chance for many girls to train professionally in a meaningful way. Elena, for example, “had a few disconnected internships, no professional growth plan and did not understand her abilities. For some, a level of coordination she clearly does not have, was required. When I offered her the job she enthusiastically accepted” Montanari goes on.
Together with them, the dressmaker’s shop is run by a group of women, former “fashion ladies” from the 80s and 90s, among which the mother of the founder. A seamstress, a patternmaker, an embroiderer and a production coordinator work in the workshops, helped by their precious collaborators. Young women, disabled or not, are the models advertising the pieces. “We focus on talent and passion, we don’t want to place disabled people just for them to find a job, forcing them to do something that is not comfortable for them”, Montanari explains.
Sartorie Leggere’s promise is evolving, although at the beginning it was not easy, Montanari admits
Beyond being Made in Italy, the shop’s business is completely eco-friendly, thanks to recycled fabrics that are used to create all kinds of clothing, accessible to women with all kinds of bodies. Even to people on wheelchairs: to simplify wearability, there are no buttons, zips or other elements and their necklines are carefully placed to adapt to the shape of their bodies.
Sartorie Leggere’s promise is evolving, although at the beginning it was not easy, Montanari admits The founder says that she found lots of supporters initially, but no financing.
A lot of motivation and goodwill was needed to get the activities started, the ones that needed the least investment; but in the end there was growth. Now the founder says she is in touch with other associations to involve more girls, to include in the shows and more. “Teenagers walk down the catwalk together with their peers with autism or Down’s syndrome and they understand that there are no differences between them. It’s something that opens hearts and minds, even for their parents” Montanari says. A lively and growing business, waiting to make the dream come true: give life to a meetup place that can be both a bar and a retail point for the kids’ creations, expanding the production not only in terms of clothing but also to other artisanal and artistic creations.