Nicole was born in small village near Lake Togo, the largest lake in the West African country of Togo. She is an accomplished weaver of hand-woven cloth strips made on a traditional narrow loom. In strip weave, many thin woven strips are sewn together to produce a finished fabric--primarily for clothing. Originally intended for royalty, this type of cloth is now worn for special occasions.
Most local weavers are men. When I asked Nicole how she chose her profession, she answered, "By curiosity. As a child, whenever I found a piece of cloth, I pulled it apart to see all the individual threads. And then, I separated out all the loose threads by their different colors." (Can’t you just picture a small girl sitting on the floor surrounded by all the colored threads she has so carefully pulled out and organized?) "And, I said to myself—when I am big I will know how to make this!" After she left school, she went in search of an apprenticeship. From 1990 to 1994 she learned from an older master weaver at the Village Artisanal in the capital city of Lomé –the same place where she today operates her own business and has her own apprentices. In a quest to learn more, she also completed « stages » in Lomé as well as in the neighboring countries of Ghana and Burkina Faso. This knowledge is reflected in the wide selection of designs she offers.
(Nicole in center with niece Alice on the left and her tailor on the right.)
Nicole is married with two daughters and a son in primary school. Her niece Alice worked alongside her to help complete the woven strips which are incorporated in the “Togo and Thailand Collection” of Threads by Nomad.
Come with me for a visit to Nicole’s small shop…. Just outside, a woman sits at a treadle machine, sewing woven strips together to make a traditional wrapper for a woman’s skirt or a man’s toga-style cloth. Stepping into the open side of Nicole’s small shop you are presented with a feast for the eyes, surrounded on three sides by woven strips of more colors and designs than you can imagine covering the walls. Nicole or Alice may be seated at the loom which fills the center of the space. Often, a baby is playing on the cement floor. After a warm greeting, Nicole will pull up a low stool where you can sit to contemplate your choices or to consider how many hours must have gone into producing all these intricate designs. If you cannot make the visit yourself, I am delighted to know that you can at least experience the beauty and expertise of Nicole’s artistry in the beautiful garments of this collection!
(Do you recognize that weave? That's the gold weave Nicole created for our collection. It is incorporated into a number of pieces as trim and makes up the entire vest.)
A quick note on the author by Nell: We first met Lynn and Mike Hutchinson when we served together in West Africa. They would sometimes pass through Dakar and a couple of times if I am not mistaken their children were some of the expat kids to whom I administered vaccinations. Then when we were in Brussels they traveled through and we got together. Virginia (their daughter) was in grade school at the time and I remember her being sooooo cold! A few months later they joined our organization and were assigned to Paris. We became even closer. Now "Aunt Lynn" (to my children) is on my Tuesday morning prayer call (a years-long weekly tradition with close friends) and we visit regularly.