Petr Ščuka: Romani flag accessories with Swarovski crystals are popular
Romani community member Petr Ščuka is the only manufacturer in the Czech Republic producing T-shirts, bow ties or linen bags featuring Romani flags made from hand-glued, imported Swarovski crystals that he sells through his e-shop. The idea to establish an online business came to him three years ago after he produced such a t-shirt for himself with the sparkling little crystals.
That product got an enormous response from everybody he knew. "People were stopping me at Romani events to ask where I got the t-shirt. I always told them that I just bought a plain t-shirt and put the Romani flag on it myself by gluing on the little crystals. Even though I saw how captivated people were by my idea, I didn't go into business right away," Ščuka tells news server Romea.cz.
"My wife and I originally planned to open a small shop in 2020 with Romani-themed items, we were going to offer t-shirts for both men and women. The pandemic spoiled our plan and we never did open a physical location," he complains.
"Jana, my wife, was sewing facemasks for the entire family and it occurred to me to glue the rest of the crystals on them, since I had them at home and no way to use them. I glued the Romani wheel from the Romani flag onto a facemask. I took a photograph of myself, posted it to social media, and just like with the t-shirt it got a significant response. Even though I am both working and going to college, that was an impulse for me to go into business and open what is, in the Czech Republic, the first e-shop with handmade products featuring Romani themes," he says.
The Sčukas bought crystals and fabric and began production. "It was not easy to source the materials, the Romani flag uses specific shades of colors and we were not able to find such crystals in the Czech Republic. However, we kept searching and discovered that the colors we need are available for purchase in neighboring countries. Ever since then we have been ordering them in Austria directly from Swarovski," he says, noting that they have since added a child's t-shirt, a men's bowtie, and a practical case made of leatherette in the colors of the Romani flag to the product line.
They plan to add men's ties to the product line soon. "We're still sewing and gluing at home, we've had to adapt our apartment to the production. We divide the work between us, my wife sews and I glue the crystals. I have to say it is the gluing that takes the longest because each crystal is really miniature, you have to get the hang of it and have a steady hand. One t-shirt takes roughly 100 crystals," Šcuka reveals, adding that he is processing orders from Austria, Slovakia and the USA.
"After a year on the market we are targeting not just Slovakia and America, but also Great Britain or Canada. The goods are not being ordered from us just by Romani people, but also by majority-society people, or by those who work with Romani people or in pro-Romani organizations," Ščuka concludes.
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