Eleonore Pinheiro was born in Togo, West Africa in the 1970s. She came to London in 1997 as a refugee of the country’s civil war “A lot of us came,” Eleonore explains to Ashley Moore.
Her plan was to make a new life for herself. The homeless charity St. Mungo gave her that chance when they referred her to a slipper-making course in Camden. This was something that she could identify with: From a young age she learnt her trade – seamstress, design and cloth work – from her aunt Gaba Regina in Togo.
Eleonore furthered her trade by studying a pattern cutting and jacket making course at Southwark College before moving on to a waistcoat course at Morley College. Her long-time goal was always been to start her own business, Red Carpet Fashion. “As a dress maker, I want to become versatile and use a lot of African fabrics to coordinate outfits,” she explains. Something that is evident with her slipper designs, which are created from African fabrics.
Even though Eleonore faces – and has faced – adversity in her life, she still finds time to volunteer at the Leicester Square refuge centre to teach dressmaking. She is also interested in “teaching other creative skills at a community centre,” using her own technique “to teach simple free-hand cutting, without using complex patterns.”
This year has been integral to Eleonore’s development as a fashion designer and entrepreneur. St Mungo’s charity referred her to Tree Shepherd for the ‘Start your Own Enterprise’ course, but unable to secure a hostel place through Lambeth Housing Office, she couldn’t finish the course despite having completed the first four sessions. Eleonore’s greatest task at this moment is to “secure space for her industrial sewing machine.” One of Tree Shepherd’s consultants has offered her a temporary space within her own home but Eleonore is looking for something more permanent, something the organisation is helping her attain.
Despite these setbacks, stopping Eleonore is proving difficult: “In July, I showcased new designs at the Lambeth Country Show – taking a table in the forest network tent,” she says, as she vows to complete the SYOE course with TS after the summer when “her home life is more settled.” Eleonore’s goal this year is to take her Red Carpet Fashion business to the next level. This includes creating a pop-up shop in Lambeth and there are also talks of creating a fashion show for the TS entrepreneurs, though this is only speculation at the moment.
Tree Shepherd was founded by local business man Colin Crookes. The company champions community-based businesses in Lambeth through consultation, lectures and setting up events. They are based at the Brix in St. Matthews church and aim to “create several thousand jobs for those who are most challenged.” The sheer number of entrepreneurs far outweighs the amount of local business consultants to help mentor, so if there are any businesses out there willing to mentor, please get in touch with Tree Shepherd directly.
If you want to get in touch with Eleonore, her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org