Batista Collections: An Intimate Look At Designer: Milagros Batista & Her Support For Domestic Violence Victims
An Intimate Look At Designer Milagros Batista &
Her Support For Domestic Violence Victims
For many women, domestic violence is a serious threat and it comes in many forms: physical, emotional, and sexual. No one should go through this experience. It is important to know the signs of an abusive relationship and how to leave a dangerous situation before it becomes life threatening and completely damages one’s self-esteem. Domestic violence can start off small, such as when a person puts you down or insults your friends, or those close to you. This may lead to the abuser discussing violence while growing up. A classic scenario is a violent outburst which is followed by a honeymoon period of remorse, attention, affection, and generosity. This is the start of a long road that gets worse, it's just a form of breaking down one’s self early on. Get out! Domestic violence has become so common; statistics show that, in the United States, in some way, every minute 20 people are being abused.
Check out the signs here: http://www.drjoecarver.com/clients/49355/File/IdentifyingLosers.html
A related aspect is women helping other women. Here is what you can do to help and understand their emotional state: http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/support-a-friend-or-family-member-experiencing-domestic-violence.aspx
I met Milagros Batista at an event during fashion week last February. I was moved by her efforts to help women in domestic abuse, and found her work inspiring. Check out designer Milagros Batista and how she helps domestic women learn to knit. Knitting becomes an outlet for healing, finding a hobby, and making a profit too. Women leaving an abusive partner tend to have their finances strained, have low self-esteem, and are frightened to communicate and bond with others. They come from a place that isolates them, and leaves them with nothing: no support. Milagros has opened her shop to help these women find a way to heal and take the steps needed to start a new life.
1. Name: Milagros Batista
2. Title: Designer
3. Location: 145 Front St. Dumbo, Brooklyn
4. Please describe your current collection:
My Fall collection will incorporate all hues of purple and turquoise. Color selection was inspired by the pantone color of the year.
5. I love how you knit with a group of a women that have suffered from domestic violence and are looking for that support group. How did you get this started?
I met Doña Maria Luisa at the tender age of seven. She was a Freedom Fighter, Spiritual Advisor, and Counselor to women and girls in my neighborhood. She was a “Master Knitter.” As a child I was deeply drawn to her. Doña Maria Luisa taught an entire generation of women in my hometown of Puerto Plata to knit and in the process, how to live. She offered classes to adults in knitting at a modest price. Being so young I was not allowed to take the classes nor did my parents have money to pay the fees. Instead I would walk over to Doña Maria Luisa’s home everyday after school, sit in her porch and watch her teach her classes. Taking note of my interest and perseverance Doña Maria Luisa allowed me to take the class. The other students were all adults and I was the only girl. Since I could not pay for the classes and materials I offered to wash Doña Maria Luisa’s dishes everyday, a “business” arrangement she was happy to agree to.
In between her knitting lessons she spoke to us about social justice. She was the first person I knew who had the courage to speak against the dictatorship the Dominican Republic had been subjected to for three decades. In those days fear of the regime prevented people from speaking out, not Doña Maria Luisa. Doña Maria Luisa counseled the women, listening to their stories and concerns. I stayed close to Doña Maria Luisa until her passing four years later. I have always felt privileged to have been in her presence during her final years on this earth. Ours was more than a simple meeting of chance. After her passing the women in the group adopted me and continued to instruct me for the following 3 years until my family moved to New York.
Some years later I finished a Master in Social Work and founded a nonprofit community service organization with my husband.
6. What prompted you to start this foundation?
Back in the days NYC was torn by violence and particularly violence against women. Many women endured the experience in silence and no support. We began to change that by helping women victimized by violence to find their voice and to take action. Through knitting we were able to tap into their creative potential.
7. How do these women find you?
Frequent meetings in the community and interaction with the media helped us to get the word out however, “word of mouth” was one of the most effective recruitment tools.
8. How common would you say domestic violence is?
Domestic violence has no boundaries impacting women of all races, ethnicities and economic status. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over 10 million American women are victimized every year; that is over 20 victims per minute.
9. What are the effects from this trauma that you see in these women?
Domestic violence has a deep economic impact on women. The cost of domestic violence exceeds $8.3B per year. Women exposed to domestic violence are also prone to depression and suicide. Sadly, children who witness domestic violence are severely traumatized by the experience.
10. The garments the women knit in your program, are they sold in your store?
My shop offers numerous pieces that are produced by women victimized by violence. In this manner, knitting plays an important role in connecting these women with their creative/expressive side but also provides additional family income. Finding outlets to sell their pieces is an important dimension of my business.
11. Do you feel that knitting is a healing art?
Over the years I have discovered the deeper meaning of Doña Maria Luisa’s teachings. A knitted piece of clothing out of the hands of a “Master Knitter” has the power to transform the life of a person, to reveal the deepest beauty of a person. A Master Knitter is an artist. Knitting is deeply spiritual. Knitting is liberating, removes blockage and opens new paths for growth, experience and beauty. Knitting is a meditation and through meditation the self is focused, gathering power and strength, healing. I design knitted pieces of clothing for women on the path to freedom and liberation. I design knitted pieces for women who seek to fully realize themselves, to expose their deeper beauty to the world. Women recovering from domestic violence can be transformed by their own creativity.
12. Where are you originally from?
I was born and spent my childhood in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Puerto Plata is a tropical oasis in the northern coast. By the early 1900’s 2 ships would sail from Puerto Plata to New York City every week with hundreds of passengers.
13. What led you to New York City?
My father was a merchant marine and he often travelled to NYC. Relocating to New York City with my family was a logical step for my parents.
14. How did you learn to design garments?
When I was growing up clothes were largely made, not purchased. A network of seamstress dressed the community. We would spend countless hours viewing fashion magazines looking for designs which the seamstress would reproduce.. This was my first glimpse of designing. My first full knitting project was a dress I designed and made for myself when I turned 12. I wore the dress on a Sunday afternoon to the “Parque Central” or the Town Square, it was a magical day. To this day I tingle in delight. Soon I began to create pieces for my brothers and sisters. I think of these as the happiest of my life, the joy of creating beautiful and powerful pieces straight out of my hands! Later I worked with other designers, established a boutique in trendy Chelsea, and continued to develop my perspective as a designer.
15. When did you showcase your first collection?
In 2013, I joined a community of artists active in Harlem, USA. We organized several arts events and fashion shows at different Community centers and art galleries, including an annual art walk throughout Harlem. I showcased my first collection in a community garden. The event was well attended and featured Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and President of the City Council Melissa Mark- Viverito. My first runway experience was in 2015 at the Latinista Fashion Week.
16. Where is your store located?
Underneath the Manhattan Bridge, in the heart of the thriving, riverfront community commonly called Dumbo; 145 Front Street, Brooklyn NY
17. Do you have any resources for women in a domestic violence situation to look into?
Foremost, it is important that we encourage women impacted by domestic violence to speak up...to reach out to family, friends and others that can help and speak about their situation. Isolation and fear are the greatest barriers to addressing domestic violence.
NYC Family Justice Centers
- Manhattan: 80 Centre Street | (212) 602-2800
- Brooklyn: 350 Jay Street, 15th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201 | 718.250.5111, select 6
- Queens: 126-02 82nd Avenue, Kew Gardens, NY 11415 | 718.575.4500
- Bronx: 198 East 161st Street, 2nd Floor, Bronx, NY 1045 | 718.575.4500
- Staten Island Domestic Violence Response Team: Call 3-1-1 for information and referrals. To learn more: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/ocdv/about/about-ocdv.page or visit www.nyc.gov/domesticviolence
Walk-In Services for Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx
NYC Family Justice Centers provide case management, counseling (one-on-one and support groups), legal information on family matters, including custody, visitation and immigration, prosecution, self-sufficiency services and a children’s room.
Clients may walk-in to any FJC for services anytime Monday through Friday between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. Clients do not need to make an appointment. The FJC has partner organizations with staff members who speak more than 20 languages. In addition, interpretation services are available for over 150 languages at the FJC. No income or immigration status requirements.
In NYS immigration status is not a barrier to accessing services and women victimized with domestic violence cannot be deported.
Services are available on multiple languages.
The New York City Domestic Violence Hotline provides safety planning, referrals, and connections to emergency housing for victims of domestic violence. You can contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 621-HOPE or (800) 621-4673.
18. How would you direct someone who wants to help?
The National Organization for Women has a domestic violence resource page with useful resources for anyone seeking help or interested in volunteering. The major providers of services in NYC are listed for easy reference.
19. Instagram: @Batistacollections
20. Website: http://batistacollections.com
Written by Alison Hernon, Fashion Director, Jejune Magazine