By Aisha Hassan on November 4th, 2020
It takes a village
Francisca Turner Shaik spent her early childhood in a village called Ciherang, which translates to “Clear Water” in Javanese. Amongst the greenery of the paddy and tapioca fields, and beside the clear waters of the river, Francisca, called Franki for short, learned the importance of community. This would later influence her boutique brand, Frankitas.
“The whole village raised me,” Franki says. Everyone relied on each other, she recalls, and since her mother — one of 14 children — was working in Jakarta, it was Franki’s grandparents and neighbors who nurtured her. Today, Frankitas is paying that communal care forward.
The brand works with weavers throughout Asia, including polio and landmine survivors, and hopes to create long-term livelihood for its artisan communities. For instance, in a village in Sumba, Indonesia, Frankitas’ artisans work as farmers when they aren’t weaving—so Franki and a local non-profit built irrigation systems for them. “We want to focus on different elements,” Franki says. “Weaving is just one component of community development.”
For the future
Franki also believes in respecting and preserving heritage craft. That’s why Frankitas bags showcase traditional textiles like Ikat, a vibrant fabric made from hand-tying materials, or Tenun Rangrang, a textile from Bali and Lombok that uses small holes to create motifs. Notably, each Frankitas design is named after someone special. The Putri S. is named after one of Franki’s closest friends, for instance, and the Tintin is named after Franki’s aunt.
Family is always top-of-mind, and Frankitas actually came about after Franki had her three children. “As soon as they came out of my belly, everything changed,” she says. She ensures her kids understand the meaning behind Frankitas, and she also takes them back to Ciherang to immerse themselves in nature and their ancestral community. Ultimately, Franki works hard for her children and future generations.
Going forward, Franki hopes to support rural communities even further. “We’re open for investment because we really want to do capacity development,” Franki says. And it’s crucial that this development happens in a mindful and sustainable way. In Franki’s home village, she has already seen the devastating effects of aggressive urbanization in the surrounding area — today, the water in Ciherang no longer runs clear. This is why Frankitas continuously strives to keep sustainability at its core, as well as maintain a fair distribution of wealth in its supply chain.
“Frankitas is no longer just a brand about aesthetics and beautiful, bold colours,” Franki says. “It's really about the community that we want to serve, because the community served me and my family.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aisha Hassan is a writer, journalist, and co-founder of Dia. Previously, Aisha worked for Quartz in New York and Harper’s Bazaar in Malaysia. Her fiction has been published in international literary magazines. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature from the University of Oxford, and a master’s degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.