Antwerp: Weaving Newcomers into the Local Marketplace
A refugee employment program revitalizes ancient textile arts while incubating small business success
Many European fashion designers, stylists, and artists are flocking to Betet Skara, a local weaving house in Antwerp, employing Assyrian Christian refugees who use traditional weaving techniques brought with them from southeast Turkey.
The professional craft of hand weaving, a once declining industry in Belgium, is being revitalized by this local social enterprise that has successfully integrated the “hidden” skills of an immigrant group into the city’s textile marketplace.
Within the Assyrian community the techniques and weaving patterns are passed on from generation to generation. In Turkey, it was their profession, their occupation, and their source of income. However, as newcomers and political refugees, the Assyrian community arrived in Antwerp faced with the challenges of unemployment.
When Aldegonde Van Alsenoy, founder and coordinator of Betet Skara, had the entrepreneurial genius to promote the community’s knowledge of the ancient art of pit weaving as a ‘professional qualification’, she was on her way to creating a small business enterprise.
What started as an employment program for a group of political refugees is now a full business enterprise offering its services to fashion and interior design companies across Europe. The company is located in the heart of the energetic fashion city of Antwerp. This melting pot of creativity in fashion, interior design, and architecture is also fertile soil for local social entrepreneurship. The company has been awarded the 2005 Plus Prize and 2005 Ambassador of the Social Economy, and been recognized as an IDELE good practice.
The collaboration between European designers and Assyrian weaving art has lead to innovative creations that have become the trademark of Betet Skara.
To contact this Good Idea We’re Watching:
Mrs. Aldegonde Van Alsenoy
T +32 (0) 3 235 36 42
F +32 (0) 3 235 36 42
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