In the theme of Building Connections, we thought it would be a great time to shed some light on the story behind the production of our shopping and artist collaboration tote bags. Andrew Lane - founder of Jamming and Jazz - is our go-to bag man, who, over the last eight years, has grown a network of tailors and seamstresses able to work from their homes. In this interview, we explore how Andrew’s company came to be, the story behind these men and women with whom he works alongside and how the production of 'tote bags’ has aided these individuals in supporting their families, communities and bettering their homes. The connections built from Jamming and Jazz allow for FIELDS to have tote bags made from overruns of our natural, locally sourced fabric whilst supporting the upliftment of these communities of men and women. Additionally, this enables us to minimise our fabric waste, as well as eliminate the usage of plastic packaging.
FIELDS: Tell us about your organisation, when it started, how it came to be and how it operates?
Andrew Lane: Origins of Jamming and Jazz started when I was operating a business centre in Khayelitsha at an NGO called Learn to Earn. This NGO would put ladies and gentlemen through sewing training, after which, they’d come through to the business centre where I’d find work for them from corporates and other businesses. The training provided these men and women with the opportunity to up-skill before moving on. Some of them found work at more formal businesses, others ended up back at home with their sewing machines, continuing as they were before the training.
Due to the change in the sewing industry, I noticed a lot of men and women fast becoming unemployed. Many of them ended up working from home on their machines, trying to make a go of their own sewing businesses. It became a matter of networking and speaking to individuals when asking ‘who’s giving these people work? How are they surviving?’ And that’s what prompted me to start this company. It was a gentle start, which was to be expected. We began with one lady and her machine before adding another and so on and so forth.
All of these women have their own businesses and machinery which operate independently of me. They are free to receive or seek work from wherever they like with no stipulation from my side at all. Our process consists of me finding work and bringing it to them. I give them the sample, they run it up and then we negotiate pricing. I source the fabric, have it cut, and supply them with the panels, ready to be stitched. From very small beginnings, this has been our process in growing to what it is now.
FIELDS: How many women do you work with? How has the network grown?
Andrew Lane: I mostly work with women, however there are a few men as well. In the beginning I started working alongside one seamstress. My network has since grown to ten: Zinia, Sharon, Faiek, Portia, Robert, Mymoona, Carol, Mary, Natasha and Jessie.
FIELDS: What inspired you to form this company?
Andrew Lane: First and foremost, I’m a social entrepreneur. These men and women produce work for me out of their own independent businesses in exchange for good pay. They are able to work from home which reduces the expense of transport fees. Some operate their machinery in their garages, others share a bedroom with their single sewing machine. In working with these individual entities I truly believe that the sense of ownership that these men and women possess is what enables them to grow and thrive.
FIELDS: Tell us more about the upliftment that your company provides for these communities?
Andrew Lane: The people I work with are scattered all over the Western Cape, from Eastridge Mitchells Plain to Seawinds by Lotus River. Grassy Park to Ottery, Hanover Park to Manenberg. Within this network of seamstresses and tailors, many of them integrate members of their family into their business as well. Once the fabric is cleaned, cut, sewn, trimmed, counted and checked - the money earned is spent looking after their kids and maintaining their homes. For instance, when I first met Zinia, they had an old Volkswagen Golf sitting in their garage. The tyres were flat and it wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Two years later this vehicle was up and running and by the time year three came around, they had redone the paint job - making it look brand new. This car functions for the use of their whole family. Then there’s Portia who, from the day we started working together, has since replaced her front gate and raised the height of the walls around her house for better security. She’s expanded her workspace and now has a backroom for overlocking and a front room for sewing and production.
What’s incredible is the direct impact that earnings have on people. What they earn and what they do with it is seen by the physical growth of their business and how they’re looking after their families and those around them. This is the amazing part about what I do. I get a lot of joy in seeing the impact that work has on their lives. My heart is in this whole thing, especially when I see these seamstresses and tailors being empowered and enabling themselves to look after their homes, families and their communities.
Additionally, I see Faiek, who lives in Hanover Park, doing a soup kitchen once a week. Out of their own free will, he and his family put it together in these massive pots that they own and serve it out to the community. That kind of thing really just inspires me and drives me to continue doing what I’m doing because such occurrences remind me that ultimately, I am making a difference in some small way.
FIELDS: What is the ethos behind your brand and what do you hope to achieve with this project?
Andrew Lane: I seek to maintain honest and prosperous relationships between myself and clients, suppliers and the seamstresses that I work with. From this, I aim to produce unique, custom made, South African products that are contributing to the welfare of certain communities in the process. I see these women pulling in members of their family and people from their communities into their spaces of work and I absolutely love seeing the growth and development of this entire operation. I hope to continue doing the work that I do - which not only gives me joy in social entrepreneurial, networking and creative aspects - but also helps others in the process.
FIELDS: How do you hope to see your company grow?
Andrew Lane: Admittedly, I don’t have Facebook or even a website. All I have is a basic Instagram account @jamandjas. Every client I have and woman that I work with has come to me by word of mouth. I’d like to see some lateral growth, and have thought about bringing in one of the women that I work with. However, these women are growing their own businesses, which I see as a sustainable process. They’re creating more jobs for people within their communities, and the growth and development of these women is a key priority for me. That being said, I wish for the growth of this operation to be organic and stable.
FIELDS: Can you briefly take us through how a FIELDS tote is made?
Andrew Lane: All my products take a similar run through: in FIELDS’ case they provide us with their fabric. I have one gentleman who measures out the meterage, estimates the number of bags that can be made from it and does all the cutting for me. I then select a seamstress whose skills I think are best suited to stitching the product together (some prefer more intricate work, others work better with bulkier fabrics). Zinia is the lady who stitches, cleans and checks the FIELDS tote bags, after which, I collect and deliver.
FIELDS: What can our FIELDS community do to help?
Andrew Lane: My motto is 'hand up, not a hand out'. Again, I stand firm in the belief of ‘ownership’ and what that title does for the growth and development of these women that I work with. I truly see the best form of assistance being the feeding of business to business versus handouts. The process of earning and then owning is a priceless journey that empowers the ladies to work for what they have, and thereafter maintaining their operations with results of growth and development. The best way for me to help these women is by generating more work for them, which in turn, requires that I generate more work for myself.
A note from us:
Here at FIELDS we pride ourselves on using sustainably sourced yarns to create our products. The cotton used in these bags is sourced, spun and dyed in Durban. Fabric is woven and bags are made in Cape Town. By shopping locally you lend yourself to supporting local communities of people, and circulating a means of sustainable welfare.
In honour of Building Connections between FIELDS, our customers and the community of seamstresses and tailors of Jamming and Jazz, during the month of June, we'll be gifting an Artist Collaboration Tote Bag with all local orders over R500 and all international orders over R2500. Once your order is placed, you'll be able to let us know which bag you choose
Offer ends at 00:00 on the 30th of June 2020, while stocks last.