A good yarn: Russia’s Insta-grannies take knitting skills online

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Yelena Tretyakova, 56, a participant of Granny’s Instagram project, presents her knits to the founder of the project, Yulia Aliyeva, 27, in Saint Petersburg on December 21, 2018. (AFP / Olga Maltseva)
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Nina Lozhkova, 58, a participant of Granny’s Instagram project, presents her knits to the founder of the project, Yulia Aliyeva, 27, in Saint Petersburg on December 21, 2018. (AFP / Olga Maltseva)
Updated 15 January 2019

A good yarn: Russia’s Insta-grannies take knitting skills online

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia: Elderly women across Russia are often seen selling their hand-knitted wares on pavement corners for a few rubles to supplement meagre pensions.
Now a new Instagram project aims to change the public perception of their homely skills by promoting “granny chic” and help the women sell their knitted mittens, socks and other items online.
Grandmother and participant Nina Lozhkova said she’d long wanted to sell her knits.
“But it’s a bit humiliating to sell things by the metro. Here, I feel like I am a creator and not a poor person,” the 58-year-old said of the Instagram initiative, Granny’s.
Lozhkova, who has a six-year-old grandson, is one of around 40 retirees to have so far joined Granny’s, which is based in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg.
More than 5,000 people follow the project’s Instagram account, @russiangrannies, which displays a sleek selection of stylish photos of adults and children in knitted clothing.
“By buying our wares you are supporting someone’s grandmother,” it says, revealing, too, some heart-warming details about the knitters themselves, their lives, families and past careers.
Aged between 55 and 87, its enterprising pensioners can earn between $450 and $1,000 (390 and 870 euros) a month. An average monthly pension in Russia is about $200.
Behind the Instagram account is Yulia Aliyeva, a 27-year-old who recently quit a job working for the city administration to launch Granny’s.
“Of course, the fact that grandmothers can make money online smashes stereotypes,” said Aliyeva, whose 85-year-old grandmother is one of the knitters.
“All of them say that if it was not for the project, they would not be able to do this by themselves,” she told AFP.

Pension age row
Many Russians have to work past the state pension age to afford living costs, or rely on financial help from their children.
Last year, President Vladimir Putin sparked a huge outburst of public anger by opting to gradually raise the state pension age by five years, to 60 for women and 65 for men.
Yelena Tretyakova, the first pensioner to join Granny’s, is already retired so the state pension age changes will not affect her. But she said that the knitting project was still crucial to keeping her afloat.
“If you are retired it is nearly impossible to find a job,” said the 56-year-old, who helps her daughter raise a 14-year-old disabled son.
“And my situation is even more complicated — I can only work from home,” said Tretyakova, whose monthly pension is around 150 euros.
With the help of Instagram, she said she earns up to 70,000 rubles ($1,005) a month, a “huge” amount for her, by knitting jumpers and other often expensive items.

Granny needs to work more
As word spreads, new women have joined the project from regions as far away as the Urals and northern Russia.
The site offers a range of clothing and accessories, some priced as little as a few dollars, while other more luxurious items sell for up to around $180.
The most expensive are usually made of merino or Peruvian wool.
Sometimes the women use the online site to directly sell the knitwear they have already created, charging a price they themselves have set.
Others knit the specific orders placed by customers, in which case Aliyeva sets the price, buys the necessary wool and takes 10 percent commission.
Besides helping the elderly women, Aliyeva said she wanted to draw public attention to the “sacred role of the Russian grandmother.”
“Traditionally in Russia, grandmothers play an important role — they babysit grandchildren, make tasty food and knit socks,” she said.
“But their pensions are small, their post-work social life is pretty much over and it is very hard for them to find a job.”


Emirati-Palestinian Lana Hattab’s modern take on modest fashion

Lana Hattab shows off various looks around the UAE. (Supplied)
Updated 22 August 2019

Emirati-Palestinian Lana Hattab’s modern take on modest fashion

DUBAI: To many, modest wear is an expression of their religious beliefs, but to Lana Hattab, modesty defines who she really is. “It is part of me,” she said in an interview with Arab News.

The Emirati-Palestinian blogger, who is based in the UAE, hopes to provide inspiration to young women who may find it challenging to dress conservatively yet still look fashionable.

Lana Hattab said her dual culture has helped shape her style. (Supplied)

According to the 22-year-old, “it is very important for modest-wear influencers to have a strong presence on social media because such women inspire young girls to stick to their culture and religious beliefs.”

While many women struggle to see a representation of themselves on the internet, Hattab said she hopes to constantly remind women that they have the choice of being who they want to be. “Optionality is key,” she said.  

Lana Hattab was raised in the UAE. (Supplied)

“International brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Max Mara, Gucci, Nike and Adidas have adapted to the Middle Eastern culture and are aware of the modest market, which makes it easier for women to relate more to these international brands now,” she added.

When speaking about the pressure that social media has on women, Hattab said that people are much wiser than they might appear on Instagram. “It is not always about dressing modestly, but rather about dressing confidently. A lot of women think of the hijab as a restriction, but I believe you can look very modern, very friendly and very classy while being comfortable to the extent of how much each person wants to cover up,” she added.

The 22-year-old studied accounting. (Supplied) 

The blogger, who has 44,000 followers on Instagram, said “even though my platform is mainly about fashion and beauty, I also like to share with my followers what I do on a daily basis. It reflects my daily life and portrays how a hijabi is just like everyone else.”

Hattab, who has a degree in accounting, is busy establishing a Dubai-based business with her partners that is yet to be announced. She is also collaborating with international and regional brands on upcoming projects.