I have a dream, and it started with this picture, now hanging on the wall in my living room. Luigi Baldelli photographed this girl in a village in Malawi while I was talking to the women of that little place.
It was 2013 and we were travelling together for a reportage. What an odd couple we were, a fashionista and a war reporter, working on a story about HIV positive mothers giving birth to HIV negative babies, thanks to the right therapies.I am deeply grateful to my editor in chief who trusts my abilities, apart from choosing skirts and stilettos. Still, I can’t help noticing the way people get dressed, wherever I go.
From my first day in Malawi, I saw women hanging around with lovely outfits. They probably never heard of Prada, Valentino and Louis Vuitton, nevertheless they looked elegant. It wasn’t just a question of poise, they had a sense of style in the way they put together their garments. Those of the women in the big cities of Lilongwe or Blantyre, they were clean and ironed. And, even it’s not easy to be that immaculate in the country, you could spot ladies with charming details in the middle of a tea plantation.
I told Baldelli about it and he, who entered the most dangerous conflict areas and followed our great Italian journalist Ettore Mo around the world to document war and pain, listened to me. We didn’t agree to do anything, only both of us recorded any sign of what I call “spontaneous elegance” around us.
One day, Maureen and Richie, our precious guides, took us to a second hand market: we had so much fun, they both looked like kids in a candy shop, they tried things on and asked for my fashion advice (actually, Baldelli did the same!). Then, while doing my interviews, many women told me that they wanted to run a small thrift shop so that they could support themselves and their kids. In fact, most of their husbands left, after knowing their were ill, even though they were the ones who infected them.
That’s when I dreamt about a project where clothing collected amongst the fahion people here in Milano could fly to Malawi. There, these garments could be given to women, with the help of the C.I.S.P. Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli, a Rome based organization working worldwide to teach people how to sustain themselves by developing small business. The idea is to train them to become second-hand dealers and to earn their own living. I asked Maureen, who works there for Comunità Sant’Egidio, a movement of lay people with more than 60,000 members, dedicated to evangelisation and charity, if it was a good idea and she said: “Yes, let’s do it”.
I want to go back to Malawi with Baldelli to tell a different story, a story of women empowerment and freedom. I need a company to support my project, a brand wanting to make the difference in the world. I haven’t found it yet, but I keep trying. I want to make my dream come true.