The cozy atelier of Ritas Häkelclub e.V. draws the visitor in right away. A club of talented women can be found in the midst of crocheted lace and pastel-coloured fabric. Their vision: to create a working model which produces sensational accessories and offers good career opportunities at the same. Ann-Kathrin Carstensen has always trusted the handcrafting of her collection »Rita in Palma« to her Turkish »Häkelköniginnen« (engl. Crochet Queens – ed.). This inclusive project offers women the opportunity to take on a greater creative and financial role in this young business. During their daily breakfast ritual, we took the opportunity ask if their vision has already become reality. At the same time we were offered an interesting glimpse into the daily operations.
Ann-Kathrin, what are you all working on right now?
At the moment we are producing bras, pasties and string-thongs for the KaDeWe. In addition, we are collaborating with the glove-maker brand ROECKL. There is a lot to do!
Are you really crocheting a lingerie line?!
Yes, indeed. We are having so much fun doing this as everything has to be tried on and fitted! This sometimes leads to a lot of hanky-panky and laughter.
What kind of presence do your pieces give a woman?
She looks even more beautiful. She will get marriage proposals all the time. Healthy, beautiful children… no that was a joke. But, people wearing one of our elegant collars or other unique designs seem to stand up straighter.
Have some friendships resulted from your confidential meetings?
We help our co-workers with all their problems. Ritas Häkelclub e.V is based on social work. Because of this, we welcome friendly relationships. We go on company outings and have breakfast together every day. We have essentially created a second German-Turkish living room: here a very special group of friends work and have fun.
About German: You offer your colleagues a language course. Are you also learning Turkish?
Yes, of course, all of us! Gülcan is also learning Turkish. She always spoke Zaza, a Kurdish dialect.
And where is Rita?
Rita is my grandmother. But the name of the collection, »Rita in Palma«, is just an art design.
Did your Grandma Rita give you this idea?
It started with »Rita’s Socks«, a prototype from when I was studying fashion design. I had already wanted to open my own business for quite a while and one evening, I thought of the crocheted socks again. I was suddenly inspired. In Berlin, where there is this large Turkish community, handicrafts are the best idea in the world! We still have the socks in our product range, by the way.
So it began with a sock. Was it easy to get the community excited about your project?
The owner of our local kebab shop helped me. We handed out classic flyers in the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln. A friendly call to women to see if they would crochet for us. Unfortunately, nothing came back, not even one call.
How did you find one another?
Over and over, I went to German-Turkish clubs where women meet and do handwork together. There, I stood in front of 30 women who were crocheting but I just couldn’t reach them. Begging and translations didn’t help. Just when I wanted to give up, my son unexpectedly helped me. On the way back from day-care, I went to a club with him in one hand and the example for a collar in the other. All of a sudden, there was trust
Other than the language-barriers, what are the biggest difficulties?
We are convinced that for each problem, there is a solution. This is how we grew together. I think that we have been able to establish a good balance of give and take, even if our budget for »Ritas Häkelclub e.V.« is still pretty weak. In addition, I have so much support now: Rosa and und Mia are working more on the public relations side of the association. Internally, we are all very committed to maintaining »Ritas Häkelclub« as an independent project.
To sum things up: What does the future have in store for »Ritas Häkelclub e.V«?
The »Crochet Queens« should learn good management skills and get shares in the project as quickly as possible. In addition, we hope our order situation remains as stable as it is. In the future, of course, we would like the ladies to run the store themselves.