Backstage Pass

Sewing "Catrice" with Restored Women in a NYC Safehouse

by Katie Martinez |

Elegantees is starting to sew a few of our designs with women rescued from trafficking that are in the New York City area. So far, I've been given three women to teach a sewing class through the hands of a noble organization called Restore NYC. I met the women two nights ago, and would like to share with you my experience.

A humble spirit took over me on my way to meet them. I didn't know what to do or how to say things, but I wanted to approach them with as much love as possible. These women all came from very rough situations and know they would need kindness! I felt very honored to meet them, and thankful my suitcase of soon-to-be-Elegantees would give them a job and better life.

Two of them seemed very happy to meet me. They thought I might be a Mexican like them because my last name is Martinez! However, my love for Spanish class in high school wanting to learn words such as "fashion designer" and "to sew" came in handy.

The third woman, who was a little rough on the edges, was the most interesting to me. She isn't rude, just she wants to be the designer, and likes to negotiate, and I think she doesn't like "authority." After I taught them how to use the machine and asked them work with me one-on-one to practice, she ended up taking a break. An hour later she come back, naturally down at the machine and starting sewing really fast! I instantly thought, "uh, oh, quality control!" But when I saw how straight the stitch was I asked, "Tu sabes coser?!" (you know how to sew!?) and she said she used to work in a factory. I was impressed and immediately understood why she left the room when I was working very slowly with the other two!

The rest of the evening was so wonderful. I could see the friendship on their faces and how they make each other laugh. I was so thankful I understood some of their Spanish and enjoyed their stories and jokes. To see them working hard and enjoying their company at the same time put a smile on my face the whole time! We are meeting again in a week, but until then, they will be working on completing the first step of the Catrice top.

The Catrice Design is one some of you have seen and asked "When is it coming out?" It's a high fashion piece, very trendy and risk-taking. You've seen me wear it in this photo above, but I've been saving it to be used as a tool to teach sewing. The sleeve bands are the perfect first project for anyone new to sewing.