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York St John Alumni

Updates and stories from the Alumni team at York St John University

Vital Garments for the NHS: #Sew2Save

YSJ Fine Art alumna Amber Kotrri and her Darlington-based boutique fashion business, House of Zana, have launched a campaign called #Sew2Save. Her aim is to give back to her local community using the skill she and her team know best: sewing.  

From kimonos to vital NHS garments

Amber started House of Zana after becoming a frequent traveller to her husband’s home country of Albania. There she saw lots of ‘rrobaqepse’ (seamstresses) at work and noticed the amazing quality of the clothes they produced. Now, Amber is swapping House of Zana’s signature kimonos and luxury pyjamas for vital NHS garments.

“After seeing a lot on the news about NHS workers not having the vital garments they needed in hospitals, and after being inspired by other seamstresses who were helping, we decided to do the same.”

House of Zana’s multi-brand concept store in Darlington

The #Sew2Save team

Catherine Hart is a milliner in House of Zana’s Concept Store in Darlington. She has over 20 years’ experience as a seamstress. Now, she is using her expert skills to make NHS garments with her mum and her sister.

Amber says, “We’ve been sending garments to James Cook Hospital, but the demand is actually more than we can supply at the moment. They need many more.”

Currently the #Sew2Save campaign is only able to make five pieces a day, but Amber believes that much more can be achieved.

Get involved

Amber and the #Sew2Save team are asking everybody to get involved in their campaign. You can help local hospitals provide protective clothing for nurses and doctors who are risking their lives every day.

You can contribute to #Sew2Save in lots of different ways:

  • Donate online. Help Amber raise the funds needed for the fabric and accessories like buttons and elastic.
  • Donate fabric. Email Amber at to see how you can donate any spare fabric that you have at home.
  • Get sewing! The House of Zana website contains a link to the Facebook group set up by an NHS nurse which can connect you with local hospitals and organisations who desperately need scrubs.
  • Spread the word!

As Amber says, “To honour their hard work, the least we can do is make basic yet vital protective garments to keep our NHS staff safe. You can do this by helping us create these garments, or by donating fabric to those who have the tools and skills to create!

“For obvious reasons, we need to get to work straight away. Even if you can just share it or tell all your friends about it, that would be just as helpful!”

Amber Kotrri and her son

Thank you

The alumni team would like to thank Amber and everyone who is doing their part in these challenging times, even if that’s just staying home. If you have a story to share with us and the alumni community, get in touch!

Check out our last blog on alumnus Mark Binks and his face shields project.

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