Laura Di Fatta and her co-workers truly are an example of how social work can go hand in hand with entrepreneurial business projects and personal development. They founded the social enterprise Sartoria Sociale in 2012 with the mission of transforming discarded textiles into resources by creating new clothes and items to be revitalized on the market. Sartoria Sociale is however also a project for giving opportunities to people with fewer opportunities who are excluded from the labour market, especially minorities such as migrants, incarcerated and victims of human trafficking. “The first step to restoring a person’s dignity, is to provide work,” Laura points out and talks about the importance of breaking down stereotypes by working with people in difficult life situations. For her and the other social workers at Sartoria Sociale this is closely connected to community development. When new customers enter our premises, they often presuppose that Sartoria Sociale is only a laboratory, but after learning about the tailors’ backgrounds, they understand that buying a product here supports community building and development. The fact they support a social enterprise which is standing up against corruption and blackmailing of local businesses, also makes their customers willing to spend more money on artisanal products because of the added ethical value. Sartoria Sociale takes part in the anti- Mafia movement “Addio Pizzo” which can be translated into “farewell protection money”. Laura explains that “this is a choice of legality, it’s a message. Those who come in here know that we are against these, let’s say, ‘mafia proceedings’, and our clients show a sign of respect for ‘the greater law’”.
Although Sartoria Sociale has become well-known in Palermo for their entrepreneurial, social and artisanal projects, balancing these three aspects can be challenging. An important part of their social work is the time-consuming training of new tailors which affects the productivity level and raises product prices. After spending some time in their shop and studio I however understand what Laura means when she describes the enterprise as a combination of social work, fashion and tailoring with a firm base in entrepreneurial self-development. Satorial Sociale’s philosophy is that everyone who comes to work in the cooperation has an entrepreneur in them. “Working as an entrepreneur is difficult; working as an entrepreneur and being a women is even more difficult,” Laura tells us when we ask her to share her experiences on female entrepreneurship, and while elaborating on the obstacles related to gender, she concludes with a positive note: “The fact that almost all of us are women, our president is a Nigerian women—gives an idea of redemption, social and professional redemption.” One the successes that women who work in Sartoria Sociale are achieving, is the opportunity to feel and act like entrepreneurs by transcending the stereotypical categories related to their gender. When we ask Laura about the advice she would give to women who want to become future entrepreneurs, she stresses the importance of self-confidence and to gather a team of people who share your values and principles. “Make your own work a commitment – this is a fundamental resource.”
Sartoria Sociale website: http://sartoriasociale.com[:]