Coloriage, an African fabric workshop helping migrants in Rome, is a breathtakingly simple grassroots project.

Based in a workshop space in Testaccio, within the Città dell’Altra Economia, Coloriage uses African fabrics – primarily high-quality African wax cottons – to make a range of useful household goods and clothes. Used garments are also upcycled into skilfully sewn, new creations.

Coloriage gives employment primarily to migrants and refugees in Rome to make the cheerful, colourful objects – and returns its profits to the migrant community. It’s a true win-win project that restores faith in humanity!

Saving the lost arts and training migrants

Coloriage was founded in 2019 by Valeria Kone and Sandrine Flament, alongside skilled tailor, Khassim Diagne. According to Valeria, “Usually these kinds of projects are born with financial or charity backing, but we are funded only by sales from our collections. It’s down to the merits of our skilled tailors that we can go forward as a business.”

Valeria founded association Terià in 2018 alongside activist migrants to promote and safeguard artisan practices, in particular in the third world. It was this association which launched the Koori project, a school exploring the skills of hand-printing fabrics according to the cotton-producing traditions of Mali. This parallel initiative is set to grow further this year.

Meanwhile, the founders of Coloriage continue to travel back and forth to Africa frequently, and source African wax cottons directly to make their wares today.

“While Coloriage was initially born out of the efforts of our association, Terià, since January 2021, we’ve transformed Coloriage into a cooperative running the boutique and sales side, while Terià manages the fashion school,” Valeria adds.

Coloriage is also a free fashion school in Rome

Coloriage: a free fashion school in Rome

The team’s initiatives include free fashion school training, particularly targeting the local unemployed, migrants and refugees. Trainee tailors learn how to cut and machine sew garments in a bijoux open-space workshop that incorporates the store in Testaccio.

This training both benefits those that frequent the free school – and the community. Skilled, artisan garment making and tailoring is a dying art in Europe and the ‘graduates’ of Coloriage can go out into the world and seek employment in this area, or found their own workshops and businesses.

At the moment, Coloriage has two stores in Rome where you can buy these colourful and practical items. In Testaccio, the boutique and workshop is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, all day from about 11.00-18.00, making this the perfect time to pop along and browse.

Coloriage is located within the ex-Villagio Globale – a former nightclub – in the main square of Citta’ del Altra Economia. Head towards the building with the clock tower, and on the right, you will find a number pinned to a door. Telephone Coloriage and someone will come and let you in.

The second store – currently a pop-up – is located in Termini Station. Coloridge has managed to bag one of the glass box retail units right in the main forecourt, which is a great shop window for the initiative. So if you can’t make it to Testaccio, at least you can buy Coloriage goodies there!

Villagio Globale
Ex-Villagio Globale workshop space

What does Coloriage sell?

In 2020, Coloriage transformed the market for facemasks with its colourful, African fabric offerings. These double-sided cotton masks are practical and washable – I love them! Also look out for reusable kitchen scrubbers; elasticated wax cotton bowl and plate covers; table mats, cushions, runners, bags, laundry sacks, aprons, padded laptop sleeves and much more. The items are great quality and I’ve managed to smarten up my own home with them.

The prices are reasonable for artisan and high quality cotton goods. Also check out their clothes line, mostly found in the Testaccio boutique. Again, a mix of fabrics and styles make these garments appropriate for just about everyone.

The Coloriage production line is a brilliant initiative which supports a worthy cause. But above all, these beautiful and useful items look highly original in any home, so it’s a real win-win.

Furthermore, this ambitious project continues to grow: Coloriage recently designed and made the costumes for an opera production in Livorno, and has been collaborating with migrant-focused NGOs such as Open Arms and other non-profits to share the love – and the support – even further.

What can you do? Get in touch with Coloriage to find out more, or simply support them by buying their beautiful products.

Coloriage | Villaggio Globale | Città dell’Altra Economia | Ex-Mattatoio di Testaccio | Roma

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