“I had always wanted to start a business,” said Denara. “I was always selling things second hand or at garage sales. But when I went to Colombia – hoping to have a year learning the language – I fell in love with the beaded jewellery there and that’s what sparked the idea for Seda Collective.”

Denera Amat

Getting to Know Seda Collective

By the time she was a teenager, Denara Amat had lived along the ancient Silk Road and Australia, and was fluent in Uzbek, Mandarin and English. But it wasn’t until she travelled to Colombia as a university student (adding just another language to her toolkit) that she says she, “truly found her voice.”

It was undoubtedly her tenacious, entrepreneurial spirit that helped Denara to navigate life across continents (she arrived in Australia at age 12), as well as the driving force behind the beautiful Seda Collective.

“I had always wanted to start a business,” said Denara. “I was always selling things second hand or at garage sales. But when I went to Colombia – hoping to have a year learning the language – I fell in love with the beaded jewellery there and that’s what sparked the idea for Seda Collective.”

While her friends encouraged her to shop at local Colombian malls or big retailers, Denara was determined to travel off the beaten path to discover the artisans behind the traditional Colombian jewellery that enchanted her. “I saw these traditional techniques and it reminded me of the traditions back in Uzbekistan, which have now all been replaced by fast fashion and factories. It’s really devastating. So I wanted to protect and conserve a beautiful tradition, and connect to culture,” she said.

In doing so, she started a brand that has since reached dizzying heights. Most recently, Seda Collective launched a collaboration with renowned Australian retailer Gorman, who – like so many others – became enchanted by Seda Collective’s range of colourful and intricate earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

The collection – which is sure to delight anyone on the receiving end of a gift (including to self!) – is defined by its intricate, detailed work with beads and traditional Indigenous thread which is usually used for fishing. There are no machines at work in the collection, with each piece made from hand with needle and thread. The pieces are colourful and bold, but as Denara says, “Still feel a little bit Melbourne!”

As a true linguist, Denara named the brand Seda as a nod to the word’s multiple meanings. “Seda means silk in Spanish, and that was really important to me because I come from the ancient Silk Road, Uzbekistan has the best mulberry silk fabrics. Also, Seda means voice and echo in turkic languages and it means happy and cheerful in Turkish. So, there are lots of relevant meanings to the word!”

As well as creating a brand that inspires consumers and empowers traditional artisans, Denara is hoping to inspire young female migrants in the process. “I did something that no young Uzbek woman would do,” she said. “I worked and paid for my trip to South America, I made my way around Colombia solo – bartering and making jokes to make sure taxi drivers would take me to where I needed to go, and I started my own business. I hope that this inspires other migrant women to run their own businesses.”

Denara notes that many migrants have exciting businesses and inspiring careers, only to leave these behind when they arrive in Australia. “I know it’s for a variety of reasons,” she says, “But I feel like being in Australia has eliminated a lot of challenges I would have had as an Uzbek girl. I have opportunities and freedom and I hope that inspires other migrant women to give it a go … To take advantage of the opportunities while celebrating their cultures.”

So, what’s next for Seda Collective? A foray into fashion, starting with their gorgeous shoe range which has recently launched. Denara laughs, “It’s safe to say I now know way more than I ever wanted to about feet.”

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer