Positive change, one stitch at a time
Driving out from the city of Varanasi can feel a little like going back in time. With each kilometre you travel, the bustle and sounds of the city fade away to be slowly replaced by the crowing of roosters and the smell of woodsmoke as water is boiled for chai tea and washing.
Although for many city dwellers this might sound idyllic, the fact is village life in India can hold precious few opportunities for a consistent income, and for women even less so. That's why we've partnered with two likeminded Indian social enterprises, Rangsutra and Industree, with the goal to create livelihoods for local women to support themselves and their families.
The result of our collaboration is the limited edition INNEHÅLLSRIK collection, which showcases natural materials, traditional hand weaving and embroidery.
Weaving a way to a better future
"Women here have so much power, energy and enthusiasm, but don't have the opportunity to use it," says Dr Dipti, from the community-owned craft collective Rangsutra. "Our whole mission here is to enable women to empower their lives and the future of their daughters, by taking the power into their own hands."
It's an unfortunate fact that in rural India many women lack the opportunity to go to school, earn an income, or follow a career. Based in a part of the country where it's tough to find consistent work, Rangsutra employs over 3000 skilled artisans. Of those 3000, 70% of Rangsutra's shareholders are women with weaving and embroidery skills.
In the south of India, Industree nurtures traditional craftsmanship through the making of handwoven products out of natural materials like banana fibres. This, in turn supports the livelihoods of around 600 artisans.
For Stina Engler, who developed the INNEHÅLLSRIK collection, travelling to India to work with the artisans, was a chance to do things differently.
"We'd already decided that we wanted INNEHÅLLSRIK to have a beachy theme with a blue colour and natural materials but it wasn't until we travelled to New Delhi, that the collection really came alive."
Arriving off the plane and into a big textile market, she and designer Sarah Fager were struck by the beauty of traditional Indian textiles.
"We saw these amazing blue patterned textiles which just spoke to us straight away," Stina says. "And then meeting the artisans, we were able to bounce ideas off each other, decide on embroidery and what type of weaving to use."
Making the unique
Weaving is a skill that has deep roots in India. From brightly coloured saris, to richly ornamented wedding dresses, for centuries it's been a way to embrace cultural traditions and create a cloth with character — even at a time when it's increasingly becoming a mechanised process.
"There's so much energy on using machinery to make more things quicker, that I think the idea of a craftsperson has a unique place to make something different," Dipti says. "I like to think of a craftsperson as someone who makes things with her hands, her head and her heart, and I think you see that in what they create."
Celebrating the handmade
The result is a collection that celebrates the handmade, including natural banana fibre baskets, handwoven blankets, towels and cushion covers in a deep blue. For Stina though the most positive part of making INNEHÅLLSRIK is the legacy it helps leave behind.
”I’m proud we can give a sustainable income to people that need it most,” she says. ”And that the money the women earn often goes into children’s education which helps develop the society in a positive way.”