Fashion, as an industry, has evolved drastically over the last few decades. Although most brands have been criticised for propagating unethical practices, some are making a difference by practising sustainability and empowering artisans at the grassroots level. Most of these are women-led, and promote India’s vision of being ‘vocal for local’.
They closely work with artisans, and uphold the essence of Indian traditions and skills. Moreover, they provide a platform for local craftspersons to showcase their skills to the world.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of these brands:
The artisanal brand Okhai began in 1996 as a small self-help group with a few women from the semi-nomadic Rabari tribe, which call the Okhamandal region of Gujarat their home. Today, it is one of the most prominent apparel enterprises that is being run by hundreds of local women of the region, under the leadership of Kirti Poonia, who took charge in 2015.
The popular brand offers apparel, accessories, and handicrafts, and blends the traditional with the contemporary.
A brand created with the support of Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development, Okhai helps to empower tribal women by encouraging them to create traditional handiwork. Artisans earn a monthly income of Rs 500 to Rs 11,000, depending on the hours they work at home or at the centre, as well as their skill level. Currently, around 2,300 rural artisans have benefited from Okhai’s consistent support.
Until now, around 470 families have received benefits from a rise in their income level. With improved skills and enhanced capabilities, Okhai has helped the rural women of Okhamandal to become financially stable and self-sustainable.
Creative entrepreneur Shilpa Sharma along with Puneet Chawla founded Jaypore, a platform that sells a repertoire of handicrafts and handlooms from all parts of India. They discover and curate designs from artisans and craftspersons from across the country, to deliver them to their customer base. Jaypore was sold to Aditya Birla group last year.
In September 2020, Jaypore partnered with Creative Dignity (a movement that brought together diverse creative producers, practitioners, and professionals to help Indian artisans during COVID-19) to launch the second edition of the Artisan Direct Campaign in Rajasthan. This 10-day campaign helped artisans to reach customers digitally, giving them access to new markets and sustained livelihood opportunities.
As part of the campaign, over 50 artisans from Rajasthan showcased their products - zardozi sarees, lac jewellery, carved stone jewellery, and gemstone statues – on Jaypore.com.
In the long term, Jaypore will be bringing about a positive impact in the lives of about 250 artisans with this initiative. The brand has tried to reach out to smaller enterprises, who do not have their own supply chain backend; women-led enterprises and artisans, which had built-up inventory and those which were most vulnerable owing to their financial condition, says their website.
India’s first eco-logic and sustainable fashion brand, Ethicus was founded by the husband and wife duo of Mani Chinnaswamy and Vijaylakshmi Nachiar, in 2009. The brand grows their own organic cotton, and weaves it by hand in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu.
Ethicus works with the best artisans across the country to create some of the most attractive designs. They are currently working with Ajrakh and Bandhani artisans in Kutch, Gujarat, Kalamkari artisans in Telangana, and Chikankari artisans in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. In 2017, they launched the 'Made By Hand' initiative to take their artisan engagement beyond the weavers of Pollachi, Tamil Nadu to associate with other traditional award-winning artisans across India.
The brand believes in inclusive growth and employs a large number of female artisans and cotton farmers.
Launched in 2015, this eco-chic, artisanal brand by NIFT Delhi alumni Niharika Chaudhary focuses on Indian traditions and skills. Peeli Dori is inspired by the people, traditions and aesthetics of India. Their platform connects rural communities with the urban market, providing them opportunities for a sustainable livelihood.
Currently, the brand is working with over 200 skilled female artisans, and apart from helping them earn revenue, they also train these women in various skills to create quality products.
Peeli Dori also has a profit-sharing model with artisans, wherein they share a percentage of their profits with these skilled masters. What’s more, every craftsperson gets the recognition they deserve, because all the products come with a tag that shares the story of the artisan who has created the piece.
The brand plans to work with more craft clusters in the future.
The brand established by Sugandha Kedia in January 2020 offers handwoven shawls and stoles that are not just attractive but sustainable in every possible way. An ex-Zoom and NDTV employee, Sugandha decided to pursue her childhood passion of working with Indian handicrafts. Even at an early age, she would be fascinated with the art of the weavers, and how they made the most exquisite products in a deft manner.
A year-and-a-half before she launched her brand, Sugandha travelled to weaver clusters in Kashmir to understand the ground realities. Currently, she works with 50 weavers from across Kashmir, and sells products that are priced in the range of Rs 2,500 and Rs 10 lakh. She not only provides them with sustainable livelihoods, but also caters to their medical and educational needs.
Today, the brand is popular among celebrities including Shilpa Shetty, Dia Mirza, and Karisma Kapoor, and also caters to clients from the UK, the US, and Australia.
(Edited by Kanishk)