The Sew Powerful

University Challenge!

Help Girls Stay In School & Create Jobs In Zambia

University Students Giving Back In Sao Paulo Brazil

Learn How Fashion Industry Students Are Making A Difference


In 2017 Fashion Student Kétcia Prado from Sao Paulo Brazil organized a group of students to make 188 Sew Powerful Purses. Follow her example and help us make a difference in the lives of students and moms in Lusaka Zambia by making a Sew Powerful Purse! Get the pattern and learn more. We have group resources available as well as a purse makers instructional video.


Who are you? What is your story and what is the situation of your family? How about the other students in your course?

I am Kétcia Prado and I am 25 years old, I am a friendly person and very focused. I learned that some things happen to me more slowly. I entered the university older than most and the reasons were because of my financial situation. In my family, few had the opportunity to enter a university: only my brother who recently entered at age 30, two cousins and myself in a family of more than 60 people. My grandparents had many children, haha! I’m talking about this because it shows the reality of our country.

I joined the university at a time when the government opened the doors of private universities to low-income people, encouraging universities to give scholarships from a general entrance test. When I left high school I knew I wanted to be a college graduate, but I did not know how. I tried to do a course where I had to go out to work and help my parents. It was a difficult time – it was not my first job as I have worked since I was 14. On the second attempt to enter university I was able to go to a federal university where the tuition is free, but it was in another state and luckily, I got a full scholarship where I study now, at Anhembi Morumbi. I believe that studying has changed my life in many ways.

Today I can see improvements for me and my family. I love studying design and I love fashion precisely because I know I can help transform society so that it is more egalitarian. Most people who study fashion design come from realities other than mine – people who already enter university with cultural capital and a more stable financial situation, but where I study I have several colleagues with stories very similar to mine. The people are very supportive whenever one needs help, so that no one drops out of the course or the dream. Despite our difficulties we know we are privileged in relation to other people where we came from. As a result, we have to do whatever we can to break this barrier of stereotypes created around fashion.

Talk a little about the vision of college and its fashion design course…

Well, the university is preparing me to be a designer, that is, we like to say that we will be transforming agents of realities.

It will take one year for me to finish the course, I realize that the university expects us to be responsible and ethical professionals, in order to design projects with social responsibility, designing for sustainability, as well as well-being and comfort. We’re taught that the human is our biggest concern.

The university is preparing designers who transcend spaces that they choose to transform and that develop with purposes, thus walking toward a better society. I believe that the difference of this university to other universities with courses in fashion in São Paulo is this, in conversation with colleagues who have graduated or are in training in other universities the concern is different, they are interested in attending only to the fashion market, we seek transformation.

The fashion designer is much more than just walkers, magazines, style and the like, as people who do not know the area think. The fashion designer also plays the key role in society through available tools, thus demonstrating his responsibility ethical social, economic, political and environmental.

Why did you decide to sew Sew Powerful purses? What part did you play in the project?

I was in the process of my thesis, where I discuss design and its sociopolitical implications through humanitarian design, when my advisor, Professor Adriana Martinez asked me if I would coordinate a group of students like myself in two projects. One was the Sew Powerful Purse Project. She explained more about the project and it had everything to do with the issues I wanted to address. I was working at the time but I wanted to take advantage of the experience.

At the university we have boxes where we put the scraps of the work we do. We learned the stories of the girls in Zambia and the professor thought to put two and two together and we accepted it right away.

What attracted us was knowing that a purse we produced could change and improve someone’s life. We were happy to know that we were having the opportunity also to empower a girl and to make her one-day occupy the same space as us and make her great.

What was the process like?

Well, Sue introduced us to the project and accompanied us at the beginning to teach us how to make the bags and answer our questions. It was a bit difficult because we had some delays with materials and technical support on the machines.

Also, the bags were very complex for beginners but after the first ones we managed to sew the rest easily. Together with Sue, our colleagues Joyce Irineu and Victoria Batista adapted the patterns to centimeters and our seam allowances and we began to cut the donated fabrics and the boxes of scraps.

The project finally took off and we began to sew. I knew that a lot of people could not be present on the day we agreed to sew together and who wanted to participate in the project and had machines at home, so we decided to give a workshop for the night students and give them some kits (cut-out pieces for purses) every week so they could also sew at home in the time they had available. We have created a page on Facebook to help give visibility to the project at the university and to look for more workers and donors. The page has around 600 followers who followed the photos of the project.

We also participated on the official page of Sew Powerful. We made new friends doing this project, we shared information, and it was fun to be part of this story. Everyone, in the end, was happy with what they could do.

Are you going to continue sewing purses for next year? Do you have a goal for the next delivery date on October 1, 2018?

Yes, we plan to. I’m going to meet with Professor Adriana and I already spoke with a third semester participant and she was interested in the challenge. We don’t know yet how many purses we can make!

Do you have any advice, message, something you think important that Jason pass on to the 800 university teachers when he makes his video?

I think it’s important to make it clear to students what a designer can do for the world, which is what my teachers did. Fashion designers can do social work, or work for a company, or do parallel projects, but we always have the opportunity to make a difference.

It may seem a bit romantic, but imagine if everyone did a little, we could for sure change the world. To create is to make a dream come to life, to look at the need of others and to transcend the distances between us. This project is beautiful and transformative.

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