Tse Partners With Afghanistan’s Zarif Initiative

The Kabul-based collective’s 52 workers have been busy sewing, weaving and embroidering a limited-edition top.

NEW YORK — Tse’s airy SoHo studio here seems like a world away from the artisans who keep the Kabul-based Zarif Initiative running, but the brand’s creative director Tina Lutz has united the two for spring.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Through a new partnership, the all-women collective’s 52 workers have been busy sewing, weaving and embroidering a limited-edition top. Aside from providing income to them, Tse will donate $50 from the sale of each piece to the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Previewing the Zarif-made handwoven black jacket with navy accents, Lutz said Zarif aims to hold onto the traditional arts that understandably continue to be at risk in war-torn Afghanistan. The collaboration will also help the women further their technical skills.

She connected with Zarif through Shabana Basij-Rasikh, founder of SOLA. Growing up under Taliban rule in Kabul, Basij-Rasikh dressed as a boy to escort her older sister to a secret school. She went on to attend high school in the U.S. through the YES exchange program and later graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont.

Lutz initially supported SOLA due to her own interest and the affiliation grew from there. At one point, Basij-Rasikh’s handlers approached Lutz about dressing the activist for her public appearances, but Basij-Rasikh preferred to wear clothes worn by Afghani women. The SOLA founder has raised funds through foundations and public talks across the U.S. to build a high school for girls in her village, in addition to wells with clean drinking water in the outskirts of Kabul.

After learning about Zarif, Lutz was so impressed with the handwoven fabrics that she forged Tse’s first partnership with an artisan collective. This spring the brand plans to sell 100 to 200 units of the $795 cape-shaped scoop-neck top with hand embroidery in its stores and through the company’s Web site.

Only a few months into her permanent post at Tse, Lutz said working with artisan collectives is a priority — just as it has been throughout her career. “When I joined Tse, I knew I wanted to continue to work with artisan collectives from around the world,” Lutz said during a preview of the spring collection, which includes featherweight cashmere with intricate details.

She has also introduced a capsule collection of organic knits for spring as part of her effort to play up sustainability for the brand. Thirdly, she is on the march to introduce Made in New York goods for the label.