Meet Frances Carrington - Eternal Creation
Eternal Creation's beautiful range of fair trade babies', childrens' and womens' wear is lovingly crafted and ethically produced in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas.
Conceived in 1999 by Australian designer Frances Carrington, Eternal Creation is a family business committed to improving the working conditions and prospects for Tibetans in exile and local Indians.
Eternal Creation runs its own design and production workshop, the Himalaya Tailoring Centre, located in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. Dharamsala is the political and spiritual capital for Tibetan refugees, and home to the Dalai Lama. The workshop is on a riverbank, overlooking steeply terraced rice fields; from the garden, there are spectacular views of the western Himalayas.
We employ over 70 staff, spanning Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian cultures, and encompassing Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim faiths. Rather than outsource to meet growing demand, we've concentrated on increasing the capacity of our workshop, providing more jobs for the local community and ensuring our high quality standards and ethical principles are maintained.
After graduating from the East Sydney institute of fashion design in 1994, designer Frances Carrington registered with Australian Volunteers Abroad, hoping to use her skills in a community in Africa. Instead she was sent to India. She was put in charge of the fledgling tailoring department of the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile. Her job was to teach newly arrived Tibetan refugees the finer points of tailoring and design. She oversaw the growth of the department from 2 to 15 fulltime staff by the end of her stay.
Falling in love with Indian and Tibetan culture, not to mention the fantastic landscape of the Himalayas, she determined that at the end of her tenure she'd find a way to use her skills to continue to benefit the local community in some way. In 1999, armed with a $5000 loan from her father she started Eternal Creation, with the aim of producing quality womens' sleepwear and accessories.
The early days were difficult. Frances started with a handful of tailors, some of whom were ex-political-prisoners who had suffered torture and privation at the hands of the Chinese authorities in Tibet. Together they battled fierce monsoons, water shortages and frequent blackouts, often simultaneously! One of the biggest challenges was training people who had previously led a pastoral or nomadic existence, to understand the concept of delivery deadlines and international quality standards.
With the birth of her 2 children, Frances found herself naturally gravitating towards designing children's clothes, and sales of her initial childrens' collection quickly proved that there was a market for her classical look, love of colour and immaculate tailoring.
As the sales of Eternal products grew in Australia, the company was faced with a difficult decision - outsource or expand? Outsourcing would bring with it the ethical dilemma faced by many designers: how do you know your designs are being made under fair labour conditions and not subcontracted to other factories that may not meet these standards?
Frances felt that outsourcing production would ultimately end up betraying the original reasons she started the company. So she decided to increase the capacity of the workshop, which would provide more jobs for the local Tibetan and Indian community as well as ensuring that Eternal Creation's trademark high quality standards were maintained.
In 2005, Eternal Creation opened the Himalaya Tailoring Centre in Dharamsala. To ensure high morale and staff loyalty, tailors are paid a good living wage, including sick leave, holiday pay and other benefits. To assist working mothers, Frances established a free children's' crèche, as well as providing maternity leave and maternity bonus for men and women.
Today the Himalaya Tailoring Centre is one of the largest private employers in the area. Eternal Creation products are sold in over 200 stores in Australia, Europe and Asia, as well as online.
Mum Zone Release Date: 5th May 2009