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.”


Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

Updated 17 April 2019
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Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

  • Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city
  • “Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” a sponsor of the legislation said

NEW YORK: A burgeoning movement to outlaw fur is seeking to make its biggest statement yet in the fashion mecca of New York City.
Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city where such garments were once common and style-setters including Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joe Namath and Sean “Diddy” Combs have all rocked furs over the years.
A similar measure in the state Capitol in Albany would impose a statewide ban on the sale of any items made with farmed fur and ban the manufacture of products made from trapped fur.
Whether this is good or bad depends on which side of the pelt you’re on. Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.
“Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” said state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan, who is sponsoring the state legislation. “Fur relies on violence to innocent animals. That should be no one’s business.”
The fate of the proposals could be decided in the coming months, though supporters acknowledge New York City’s measure has a better chance of passage than the state legislation.
The fur trade is considered so important to New York’s development that two beavers adorn the city’s official seal, a reference to early Dutch and English settlers who traded in beaver pelts.
At the height of the fur business in the last century, New York City manufactured 80% of the fur coats made in the U.S, according to FUR NYC, a group representing 130 retailers and manufacturers in the city. The group says New York City remains the largest market for fur products in the country, with real fur still frequently used as trim on coats, jackets and other items.
If passed, New York would become the third major American city with such a ban, following San Francisco, where a ban takes effect this year, and Los Angeles, where a ban passed this year will take effect in 2021.
Elsewhere, Sao Paulo, Brazil, began its ban on the import and sale of fur in 2015. Fur farming was banned in the United Kingdom nearly 20 years ago, and last year London fashion week became the first major fashion event to go entirely fur-free.
Fur industry leaders warn that if the ban passes in New York, emboldened animal rights activists will want more.
“Everyone is watching this,” said Nancy Daigneault, vice president at the International Fur Federation, an industry group based in London. “If it starts here with fur, it’s going to go to wool, to leather, to meat.”
When asked what a fur ban would mean for him, Nick Pologeorgis was blunt: “I’m out of business.”
Pologeorgis’ father, who emigrated from Greece, started the fur design and sales business in the city’s “Fur District” nearly 60 years ago.
“My employees are nervous,” he said. “If you’re 55 or 50 and all you’ve trained to do is be a fur worker, what are you going to do?“
Supporters of the ban contend those employees could find jobs that don’t involve animal fur, noting that an increasing number of fashion designers and retailers now refuse to sell animal fur and that synthetic substitutes are every bit as convincing as the real thing.
They also argue that fur retailers and manufacturers represent just a small fraction of an estimated 180,000 people who work in the city’s fashion industry and that their skills can readily be transferred.
“There is a lot of room for job growth developing ethically and environmentally friendly materials,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced the city measure.
New Yorkers asked about the ban this week came down on both sides, with some questioning if a law was really needed.
“It is a matter of personal choice. I don’t think it’s something that needs to be legislated,” said 44-year-old Janet Thompson. “There are lots of people wearing leather and suede and other animal hides out there. To pick on fur seems a little one-sided.”
Joshua Katcher, a Manhattan designer and author who has taught at the Parsons School of Design, says he believes the proposed bans reflect an increased desire to know where our products come from and for them to be ethical and sustainable.
“Fur is a relic,” he said.