After graduating from the East Sydney institute of fashion design in 1994, designer Frances Carrington registered with Australian Volunteers Abroad, hoping to use her skills in a community in Africa. Instead she was sent to India. She was put in charge of the fledgling tailoring department of the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile. Her job was to teach newly arrived Tibetan refugees the finer points of tailoring and design. She oversaw the growth of the department from 2 to 15 fulltime staff by the end of her stay.
Falling in love with Indian and Tibetan culture, not to mention the fantastic landscape of the Himalayas, she determined that at the end of her tenure she'd find a way to use her skills to continue to benefit the local community in some way. In 1999, armed with a $5000 loan from her father she started Eternal Creation, with the aim of producing quality womens' sleepwear and accessories.
The early days were difficult. Frances started with only 3 tailors, in association with the Gu-Chu-Sum movement of Tibet, an ex-political-prisoners' organisation based in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala. Gu-Chu-Sum's 200-plus members are all former prisoners of conscience, some of whom have endured terrible privation and torture at the hands of the Chinese authorities. The organisation is dedicated to improving the lives of recently arrived political refugees by providing jobs, training, health care and accommodation.
The small tailoring unit slowly grew, employing several ex-prisoners and battling with fierce monsoons, water shortages and frequent blackouts, often simultaneously! One of the biggest challenges was training people who had previously led a pastoral or nomadic existence, to understand the concept of delivery deadlines and international quality standards.
With the birth of her 2 children, Frances found herself naturally gravitating towards designing children's clothes, and sales of her initial childrens' collection quickly proved that there was a market for her classical look, love of colour and immaculate tailoring.
As the sales of Eternal products grew in Australia, the company was faced with a difficult decision - outsource or expand? Outsourcing would bring with it the ethical dilemma faced by many designers: how do you know your designs are being made under fair labour conditions and not subcontracted to other factories that may not meet these standards?
Frances felt that outsourcing production would ultimately end up betraying the original reasons she started the company. So she decided to increase the capacity of the workshop, which would provide more jobs for the local Tibetan and Indian community as well as ensuring that Eternal Creation's trademark high quality standards were maintained. In 2005, Eternal Creation opened the Himalaya Tailoring Centre in lower Dharamsala, and today is one of the largest private employers in the area. Eternal Creation products are sold in over 200 stores in Australia, Europe and Asia.
I couldn't help myself, and ordered 3 pieces for Carter. Even better, they were all on sale. I can't wait to receive them!
How adorable are the candy coloured rompers. Carter is going to be even more adorable this Summer!