Fast fashion comes inexpensive for a reason. Their manufacturing practices are often far from fair, their fabric often not great for the environment. On the other hand, eco-friendly fashion choices are in trend now, with brands working hard to produce not only feel-good clothing but clothing that actually looks good too. The demand for handicraft and organic products carves its own niche in the market, its reach has been further enabled by technology - especially the e-commerce platform.
Taking note of the appeal the two sectors presently holds among consumers, many startups have started working closely with artisans and craftsmen from the hinterland. This allows for artisans to put their work on display, while also providing consumers a one-stop shop for socially conscious gifting options. We look at startups helping and supporting artisans, weavers, artists, farmers, and be socially responsible consumers. If holiday gifting is on your mind, then you could lend support to these startups helping artisans, farmers and weavers this holiday season:
Okhai is an online store that sells handmade apparel sourced from rural artisans around India. Proceeds from the sales go back to the rural economies. Okhai’s core mission is to develop skills, encourage financial independence, and empower women from less privileged backgrounds.
Founded by three NID graduates, Gaatha started as an effort in bringing Indian handloom and handicraft back to public memory. Initially an effort in researching Indian crafts, Gaatha became a full-fledged ecommerce portal in 2013. From ceramic jewellery to handwoven scarves, Gaatha brings fashion and lifestyle products from over 150 craftsmen and women around India.
It is not news that this war-torn Indian state produces the world’s softest pashminas and intricately embroidered apparel. A marketplace of sorts, Kashmir Box allows artisans to list and sell their products under their individual brand names. The company partners with over 10,000 artisan families and calls itself a community of artisans, producers and manufacturers, and creative individuals from Kashmir.
Samtana creates and sells what it calls “wearable art”, organic cotton t-shirts designed by the company’s community of Indian artisans and independent designers. It sources its raw material from organic farming cooperatives in South India.
If that wasn’t all, Samtana started The True Blue Project in an effort to address India’s hunger crisis and this year provided for around 6,000 meals.
eMithilaHaat is an effort in preserving and promoting Madhubani painting, a rich art from Mithilanchal, a Maithili speaking region in Northern and Eastern Bihar. It provides an online platform for Mithilanchal artisans to showcase and sell Madhubani paintings. Among its missions, the company also aims to provide education, livelihood, and healthcare to women and girls of the region.
From apparels, lifestyle products and home furnishings, products at Moya depict regional arts from different regions of India. Founded by Rashmi Singh in 2014, Moya celebrates the handcrafted traditions of India in a sustainable ecosystem.
A home décor and lifestyle brand, Sujani Looms create products by using the Sujani weaves - a 150-year-old weaving technique - in new forms and product range. Sujani Looms was started by Nupur Jain in a bid to revive Bharuch's Sujani weaving technique.
Founded by husband-wife duo Kartik Budhiraja and Anuradha Kanwar, Fruit Bageecha partners with farmers and self-help groups to produce and sell jams, preserves, and chutneys made from indigenous fruits of Himachal Pradesh. The products are available on several online stores.
An artisanal chocolate brand based out of Mysore, Earth Loaf operates on the bean-to-bar concept. That means that right from sourcing to manufacturing under a single umbrella. Earth Loaf’s ingredients are sourced directly from Indian farms. The company’s cacao sourcing supports over 300 farmers and their families who are associated with the Varanashi Farms in the Dakshin Kannada district of Karnataka.
This Pune-based company is an effort in combining rural empowerment with food innovation. Its products are mainly on-the-go snacks like crackers and cookies. Since 2015, Happy Roots has done its bit to resolve the problem of farmer impoverishment in Gujarat and Maharashtra by creating a food value chain that gives 50% ownership to farmers and rural women. Partnering with over 15,000 farmers and 2000 rural women, Happy Roots has increased their incomes by 150%, assisted in skill development and has a played a pivotal role in employment generation and micro-entrepreneurship.
Consumers are at a turning point today. They are stepping out of the brand hoarding nature to recognizing the importance of inclusive development. What started as an antidote to the unhinged growth of capitalism in the West is starting to catch on in India too. So do your bit for the movement, and this new year consider giving mass brands a miss and instead, pledge your support to fair trade independent startups around the country.