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
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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.”


Yousra Elsadig brings her modest style to LFW

An image from the show in London. (Frederico Velez)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Yousra Elsadig brings her modest style to LFW

DUBAI: An independent showcase of emerging designers held during London Fashion Week, Fashion Scout once again lived up to its name — scouting out and presenting talented designers from across the globe from Feb. 15-17.

Arab News went along to a showing by a UK-based designer Yousra Elsadig, whose Boutique De Nana collection paid tribute to her former home country, Sudan.

“I am trying to depict the beauty of my homeland. It’s so heart-breaking to see what’s happening in Sudan. I want to dedicate this collection to my country and to put the focus on freedom, justice and peace,” she said.

Elsadig, who was named “Woman of the Year” by Barclays in 2017 and “Designer of The Year 2016 by the Modest Association of London, designs for women who want to dress modestly, but with imagination and style.

“The modest element is very important to me — women can be beautiful, feminine and modest,” she said.

Her designs have a simplicity, charm and quirkiness that comes partly from the use of recycled fabrics, as sustainability is a key message she wants to get across. 

Elsadig is unusual in combining her designer role with a full-time degree in optometry. In fact, the day before her LFW show, she sat an exam and then drove from her home in Wales to London. 

She is also the mother of two young girls, but if that’s a lot to juggle it doesn’t show. She was a bundle of warmth and energy backstage — calmly briefing the models.

Her family left Sudan when she was very young and she grew up in Canada. Her family then left Canada to live in Wales in the UK.

It was in Cardiff that she met her mentor, designer Sarah Valentin, who was teaching community sewing and textile classes with a special focus on recycling and sustainability. Valentin said she is thrilled to see Elsadig achieving such success.

“I saw her potential and creative ideas. It’s incredible that she is showing here at London Fashion Week.  I’m so proud of her,” she said.

As the models moved gracefully through the room, the clothes gave off a sense of confident, graceful and highly individual style — perfect for the modern, modest woman of today.