United Kingdom (London)
When sisters Tina and Piarvé Wetshi began their exploration of collaborative learning, they had no idea they would end up as co-founders of a business. Their starting point was a desire to tackle problems around access to fashion education: “As young people who wanted to start in the industry, we quickly saw the lack of information available as well as social barriers”, explains Tina. As they worked to confront these issues they realised that the whole approach needed a rethink: “from who we learn from, how we interact with others and types of conversations we chose to have” adds Piarvé.
The new approach that emerged was co-learning – a community-focused way to approach fashion education that embraces different voices and spaces. They set up Colèchi as a platform for collaborative learning, while part of London creative space Makerversity’s under-25 programme: “When we realised how many people felt disconnected from the sector, including fashion students, and the wider issues within fashion, we wanted to create an alternative space for passionate people who don’t naturally have the support in navigating this industry.”
The sisters’ own love for fashion was rooted in their culture and heritage. Piarvé became immersed in craft, textiles and design and Tina’s interest grew after studying textiles, then gravitating towards it as an art form. Their journey is an example of co-learning in practice. “Building this platform” says Tina “has allowed us to connect with some amazing people who have given us a greater understanding of not only fashion but new ways of thinking and navigating.” As their ideas grew, they realised that they were developing a new business: “One of the greatest challenges is branding a concept that started organically and which people connect to in a personal way.”
Their own journey has mirrored that of many of the people they interact with. This has led them to expand Colèchi’s mission to include working to dismantle bad practices and change mindsets. This includes confronting sustainability and fashion’s relationship with the planet; looking at mental health and how individuals can authentically exist in this space; and inequality regarding who can access information and resources.
Their next step is to create a digital home which reflects the community and values. “As a platform we encourage meeting IRL”, says Tina “and having smaller intimate groups. COVID-19 has pushed us to ensure that this space can be recreated online too.” The Colèchi community continues to grow and develop more projects: Clean Fashion is a three-part series of talks bringing to light each stage of the fashion production cycle; #PayCreativeSpeakers is a campaign to ask industries who take a huge budget from events to contribute a fee towards independent creatives who speak at events or share knowledge in some form. “Lockdown brought up many issues with the fashion and creative industry, especially around wages and financial sustainability”, notes Piarvé. As for long-term plans – the sisters are dedicating their talents and energies to making Colèchi “the fashion hub for co-learning and research. This means looking deeper into the topics we already cover and producing primary resources for the fashion industry.”
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Piarvé Wetshi and Tina Wetshi, Co-founders