At their essence, Zaman International and Mend on the Move share the same mission.
They empower women to overcome crisis and embark on a journey of healing that leads to gainful employment, self-reliance, and the quality life they deserve after enduring traumatic experiences including extreme poverty and abuse.
This fall the two like-minded nonprofits near Detroit are partnering to expand Mend’s leather line of goods and produce a high-end, upcycled leather tote handcrafted from leftover materials from the automotive industry.
The “All In” tote bags will be produced in Zaman’s recently opened cut-and-sew manufacturing center at the Hope For Humanity Center in Inkster. The partnership will initially employ a seamstress that graduated from its industrial sewing vocational arts training program, BOOST.
“We wanted to expand this line but we’re struggling to find a quality seamstress. That’s where Zaman’s workforce development program was able to step and fill that gap with one of its graduates,” said Joanne Ewald, founder of Mend on the Move, which is housed in Troy Design and Manufacturing Company, a Ford Motor Company subsidiary located in Plymouth.
The bags, which will retail for $165, are handcrafted from leather donated last year by Ford and include straps made from seat belts.
“This is a really fantastic, handcrafted bag that reflects our automotive heritage,” Ewald said. “People are really going to like this bag. It’s a perfect gift for someone who likes fashionable leather goods, but also wants to make a difference in the world.”
Portions of the proceeds will also go to support Mend’s efforts to empower women survivors of abuse through the creation of handcrafted products, providing them with an income to promote independence and healing.
“Our missions are so well aligned this partnership was a complete no-brainer,” said Gigi Salka, chief workforce officer at Zaman. “The ‘All In’ tote will help provide employment to one of our clients who’s working to lift her family out of poverty, while increasing Mend’s ability to positively impact abuse survivors.”
Mend, which primarily produces jewelry from donated or discarded automotive parts, designed the bag in 2021 following Ford’s donation, and piloted a limited 15-bag line that sold out in six hours.
“We are excited for this tote to hit the market and for people to see the talents of our clients,” Salka said. “We hope it gets the attention of employers looking for talented seamstresses in the Detroit region. Our graduates are top-notch with professional certifications and are ready to help fill the skills gap in garment and industrial sewing.”
The two organizations, both of which empower their clients to launch entrepreneurial ventures and small businesses, came into contact at Hope Lutheran Church’s alternative holiday market, which features products that support or address needs in the community.
“It was so wonderful when I found out Zaman was training professional seamstresses and industrial sewers while we were looking to expand further into leather goods,” said Ewald, an abuse survivor who founded Mend to make a difference in the lives of women who shared her experience. “It’s just a perfect match of mission and resources.
Photo: BOOST graduate and apprentice, Naeila, creates an "All In" tote at Zaman's Industrial Sewing Center.