Sometime ago, YouthTime Correspondent Ekaterina Kuznetsova met Viet Ha Tran, a creative fine art photographer from Vietnam, and interviewed her for our magazine. The amazing life of this businesswoman-by-day and artist-by-night has inspired many YouthTime readers. Taking the next step, Ekaterina now meets Viet Ha for the second time along with her creative partner, Tetyana Kretova, from Ukraine. Viet Ha and Tetyana are colleagues at the IE Business School and have known each other since 2013, when Tetyana started working at IE. As colleagues they have gotten on very well since both are goal-oriented and have ambitious objectives respecting recruiting the best students to study at IE.
The story behind IFEMME
Apart from working at IE, Viet Ha is a photographer, and Tetyana has a fashion company that produces chic and fashionable white shirts. In the fall of 2016, they began talking about doing an art fashion project together, using Tatyana’s creative white shirts. However, the pressures of daily jobs with never-ending business trips all around the world took their minds off the project for a while.
In December of 2016, Viet Ha took a backpacking trip in Nepal and, while walking down the busy, dusty streets of Kathmandu, stumbled into a bookshop and lost herself amidst hundreds of inspirational books about climbing Mount Everest. One particular book captured her complete attention. It documented the very motivational life of John Wood, who left his successful career as a Microsoft executive to change the world of children in developing countries by founding Room to Read.
His idea, coincidentally, was also the result of a creative spark that flew during a backpacking trip in Kathmandu and Nepal. Room to Read is today an NGO that focuses on children’s education with a strong focus on girls’ literacy.
Upon returning to Madrid, Viet Ha immediately discussed her idea with Tetyana, and they both realized that the concept of Room to Read would completely fit the “woman” factor in both Viet Ha’s photography and Tetyana’s white shirts (the shirts are produced in Ukraine by women who are in need of employment).
Both Viet Ha and Tetyana are strong believers in women´s talent and have a great deal of respect and admiration for each other’s artistic spirit and talent. At that moment, they started planning an art project together with the aim of empowering women through drawing pictures of how globalization has enabled women to live their dreams and how women have evolved to build successful careers while maintaining their identity and culture. Their art is taking a new direction for both of them and will soon be featured in an exhibition. Let’s find out more about it.
Hello ladies, can you introduce yourselves to YouthTime Readers?
Both: We are two women who aspire to change the world. We work at IE business school in Madrid and both believe that education is able to change lives and make a difference.
Tetyana: My daily job is to act as a Regional Director at IE for the Asia Pacific region, where we have six representative offices. I also have my own white shirt brand – Simplifi – which is produced at a social enterprise in Ukraine that employs women who have been left out of the labor market. I am the mother of an 8-year old girl, and the daughter of a social activist. Education has played an important role in my life, bringing me to where I am now. Hence, our project, called IFEMME, is my way of giving back to society by empowering more women.
Viet Ha: I am a finance professional by day and an artist by night. I work full time at IE Business School as Director of Admissions for Finance Master Programs and dedicate most of my free time to creating art. I started taking pictures in 2013 and have discovered that art photography has become the love of my life, there is nothing I enjoy more than dedicating hours to painting my fantasies into photographs. As a child, I dreamed of changing the world; and in one way or another, with this project I hope to be part of making change happen.
Tell us more about the charity event you will organize in Madrid? Its name is quite interesting, can you explain more?
Tetyana: The exhibition in Madrid, hosted at IE, kicks off of the global tour of key capitals that we plan for next year. During the exhibition, we will present the art photography done by Viet Ha, featuring pictures of educated women of different backgrounds in their national clothes and white shirts. National attire to us symbolizes diversity – the importance of being true to yourself and unique, while white shirts stand for the importance of education, higher social status, and success.
Sales of the art photography and the specially designed shirts and silver cufflinks will generate funds that will be donated to Room to Read. This is a global fund that supports education for women. IFEMME is a mix of English and French where we highlight diversity and globalization. It also reflects the pride that goes with being a woman.
Where will it happen?
Viet Ha: The exhibition will be hosted by IE at Velazques 130 from November 16 through December 16, 2017. The IE Shop is in the same building, and for one month after the expo everyone will be able to buy art photography, shirts, and cufflinks in the Shop. To allow more people to contribute, we will also sell postcards for 5 euros each. We believe that by joining together we will be able to create miracles, and we would like to allow as many people as possible to support our initiative. So if you plan to be in Madrid, feel free to visit our exhibition! Or if you have any ideas on how to support women and feel you have something to contribute to our project – also get in touch through my website.
Who is helping you to organize such a big project?
Tetyana: It has not been an easy task to find the support we need, especially since we work full time on something else. But this project is a worthwhile investment for our energy and resources; and as a social entrepreneur, I am so proud of the efforts we have made.
We have been lucky to find backing from amazing people and companies. IE Foundation and its Center for Diversity is our institutional partner, and with them we plan to walk the world and present a book – Pasaron – at the end which will highlight important women from different cultures as well as presenting state-of-the-art research. JustLanded is the company which helped us with the initial donation we needed to organize the photoshoot and get the project started. There are also remarkable people like Viet Ha
Viet Ha: Just adding to what Tetyana said, our friend and colleague Tino Elgner, Co-Founder of Future Kids Education (Germany), also helped with the second corporate funding. The European Cultural Academy from Venice, Italy has become our Academic Partner and will grant two scholarships to study art in Venice to IFEMME supporters. Details about how to win these amazing scholarships will be announced later during the year. Also, we have an art curator from Copenhagen, Denmark who will assist with the general art and thematic matter of the project.
Last but not least, many friends have helped by donating directly to our campaign on GoFundMe which later became the Room to Read campaign site.
How do you combine being a businesswomen with art and charity?
Tetyana: It comes naturally. I believe there is a higher purpose to our lives, and if each of us could try to make this world a bit better we would have an amazingly different world. Sometimes I wish each day could make a few more hours available so that I could do even more… However, to me it is not doing three different things, to me it is the essence of living a complete life.
Viet Ha: I have been passionate about changing the world since an early age, and I believe that education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to make change happen, and art is another powerful tool that helps by changing a person’s inner world and vision. Now that I am working in both fields of education and art, I am fulfilling my life’s dream and hope to become an enthusiastic philanthropist in the future.
What do you hope to achieve at the end of the event?
Viet Ha: We hope to raise awareness about how education can help by changing lives. Further, it’s an art exhibition that through the symbolic white shirts showcases the modern, independent, liberal, and successful women of the 21st century, who are the owners of their destiny while still maintaining their cultural identity. Later on, the limited edition art photographs will be available to collectors through galleries, auction houses, and a series of events we will be organizing around the world.
Tetyana: With this event our aim is to engage as many people as we can to generate funds and educate as many girls as the funds that we raise allow us to do. Our end objective is to provide better life opportunities for women.
More opportunities for women you can discover here.
Photos: Viet Ha Tran
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