Connection & Collaboration Through Co-Design
Our process of co-design is slow, intentional and intertwined with many stories of lives that are very different from each other. Co-design is a term that means creating something together, it is the ultimate collaboration exercise that honors the creativity of both parties. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my journey. I have witnessed artisans grow in confidence, self -belief and independence through the process.
90% of the women artisans in India have had no access to education. Their craft is their only source of livelihood. So supporting their talent to help them grow their craft and become independent entrepreneurs can change their lives radically. The co-design process personifies slow fashion and its principles of sustainable materials, fewer collections, fair trade, utilizing resources, transparency and minimum waste.
To paraphrase what my my mentor Judy Frater said," Imagine, that you are a farmer, you own the land, and grow your produce with your hard work but then it is sold for a small amount to a trader who will earn more than you." In the same way artisans, who are custodians of timeless traditional deserve more ownership and value in the Indian craft market valued at over a billion dollars.
Once artisans have more ownership over their crafts and history, can they be empowered to become designers/change makers in their own right. Co-design personifies slow fashion, it carries meaning with the material and the creation.
I sketch the concept of each collection. One thing that is extremely important to me is to honour the traditional embroidery styles and their distinct styles. So I come up with a concept that can include them, work on the inspiration of the product, decide on the colors etc.
Gomtiben Artisan Designer of the Sukoon Collection
My next step had always been to go meet the artisans, discuss the concept over a cup of chai or a freshly cooked meal and then the artisan creates her own version of the theme. Artisans often share their feedback on the inspiration which is great to hear too. But since covid hit, a lot of the process happens through phone calls and even Whatsapp discussions. I am hoping that through this year, we will start to meet and create together again.
It is always amazing to see what the artisans come up with, its nothing like what I would expect and that is what I love about it.
Our fabric is sourced from handloom weavers, the fabric is then used by the artisans to create the first sample of the design. Once she finishes it, she sends it over to the Dehradun. A small town on the foothills of the Himalayas. It is here that I look over the design for any feedback, and make the first sample at the ethical workshop of our friends Joyn Bags. The first sample is made, quality checked, used for a while to check for any changes that may be needed.
Once the sample has been approved, we let our artisan partners know and ask them to create a limited edition collection of the designs. It takes them between two to four months to complete their creations.
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