How fashion addresses issues of migration

‘The travelling Sewing Box Project’ was born in response to my experience as a Latin American immigrant in New Zealand. When I arrived, I terribly missed the sense of warmth I associated with my family, we used to gather around the table, talking while cooking, mending, sewing or knitting. Therefore, when I created this project, my intention was to simply provide a safe and warm space for Latin American immigrant women in New Zealand to tell their stories, to share their journeys of migration and to sustain their language while stitching their memories into a piece of cloth that keeps growing and extending.

Guest column by Victoria Martinez Azaro, Fashion and Design lecturer at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design in New Zealand

When I migrated to New Zealand, I felt there was a sense of loss of not fitting in, of dislocation, which became the drive behind this project. I studied Fashion Design at UBA, Universidad de Buenos Aires, and now I am a Fashion Design Lecturer in New Zealand. It is through my creative practices, I have been telling my immigration stories for years, while developing a practice of sustainable methodology based on locality and identity. With the project, ‘The traveling Sewing Box’, I now get to share all my learnings with all the wonderful women who participate.


Travelling sewing box project – Hamilton 2018

“I felt there was a sense of loss of not fitting in, of dislocation, which became the drive behind this project”

Sustainability in fashion blends with cultural sustainability

The project blends fashion sustainability with cultural sustainability. By using textile workroom waste, the project’s objective is to give immigrant women a voice and a sense of participation within society, by giving them a space to slowly stitch their thoughts and feelings on a piece of cloth while talking and sitting around other women in a safe and supportive environment. Through the patterns, embroideries and other techniques the women use, the cloth will tell the stories of all these women together. This way we can sustain our culture while outside our country.

The sewing box literally travels around Aotearoa-New Zealand to wherever a Latin American group of women is located. In May 2018, the project was delivered to a group of women in Hamilton, New Zealand. The Sewing Box is travelling to Auckland NZ in August 2018 and to Waiheke Island in September 2018.

Video by Sebastian Vidal Bustamante

Empowering women

I believe there’s a lot of work to be done within the refugee and immigrant community here in New Zealand. And I feel that ‘The Travelling Sewing Box Project’ can assist in empowering these women and give them a sense of celebration and appreciation of their past stories, no matter how painful they may be. I have witnessed the transformation that took place within the first group when all the participants placed their cloth narrative next to each other’s and we created a community piece which everyone was proud of. It’s also a great feeling to think that we are repurposing textile waste.

As this project is close to my heart, it’s great to see that this topic, addressing the journeys of migration, both beautiful and painful, is not only receiving positive feedback from the women, but also from so many others. Local fashion communities, Studio One, which is based in Auckland will showcase the beautiful cloths created in November, and as of next year, the cloths will start travelling as well! First stop will be Buenos Aires, Argentina which is my home country, and a research project by a local University is underway.


“The Travelling Sewing Box Project can assist in empowering these women”

What’s in the travelling sewing box?

  • Sewing materials donated by the local fashion industry and the Fashion Design Department at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design.
  • Second hand items, which are gathered from the community from Aotearoa – New Zealand. The use of these local material, are a metaphor for locality and they act as a link to the New Zealand environment.
  • Different kinds of wool yarns sustainably and naturally dyed with local materials are explored in combination to textiles, yarns and dyes which originate from Latin America as a vehicle to celebrate cultural background as well as to develop strong connections with the richness and variety of the new adopted country.


This guest column was written by Victoria Martinez Azaro. For this project she collaborates with ALACINC, Aotearoa Latin American Community Incorporated, that implemented the project in the context of the Community development and Craft Therapy Programme.  Victoria is mother of three, fashion designer, fine artist, fashion design lecturer at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design in New Zealand. Find more about Victoria and follow the project at Fashion and Heart.

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