Homemade by name, homemade by nature
For centuries the women in northern India have used intricate embroidering and weaving skills to shape and create their wedding dresses. Even in a country where everyday saris dazzle with colour and patterns, wedding dresses had to be something even more special, and a particularly good one would use different designs and techniques that even in the days of machines can only be done by hand.
For HEMGJORD designer Sarah Fager, it’s exactly these skills that have helped shape the look and identity of the collection whose Swedish name “HEMGJORD” fittingly means ‘handmade’.
“Overall this project is like what we do at IKEA everyday but with an important difference,” Sarah explains. “Here we’re actively working with women, working with the makers, which of course is very different to visiting a factory and machines. I was really conscious of the fact that if my designs didn’t comprise of different elements then some of the women would be out of work. So we really tried to integrate all the amazing skills that these women have.”
Helping create sustainable livelihoods
It almost goes without saying that life in the rural areas of India can be tough, and for the local women, even more so. Traditionally most women are involved with the home and can face great difficulty accessing education, healthcare and a livelihood.
The HEMGJORD collection is the result of a collaboration between IKEA and two India based organisations; Rangsutra and Industree PT. The guiding force behind the two organisations is to ensure sustainable livelihoods and regular employment for rural artisans with the great majority being women.
“These cushions and embroideries represent our lives beginning again,” says Renu Divi, an artisan from the Rangsutra Organisation.
The effect of regular work using women’s skillsets has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It started with 10 or 20 women and soon there were 25 women,” says Badili Bai, also from the Rangsutra Organisation. “Today in my village there are two groups of women numbering about 110, all working in embroidery. These women are earning well from their homes without going to different places for money. Some women cover all of their household expenses this way. The work is going well.”
A natural collaboration
The essence of the HEMGJORD equation was working together. For Sarah this was both her first time in India and her first time collaborating with social entrepreneurs.
Her first impression of India was the colour that stood out in contrast to some of the Swedish love of black clothing.
“This was my absolute first trip to India so I was completely blown away. It’s an amazing experience to go there, everything is such a buzz, the colours, and smell and noise - and the women dress so beautifully with bright clothes.”
Visiting the sacred city of Varanasi to meet with local artisans, Sarah explains the collection was shaped by the skills in the community and natural materials such as banana fibre to give the collection its green, organic look that matches with a leaf inspired embroidery.
For Sarah though, the collections biggest calling card is the handicraft behind each piece.
“To make these products, the stitching, crafting and sewing can only be done by hand. They might be slightly imperfect compared to machine made, but to me that makes them immediately recognisable as beautifully human.”