Creating values –
step by step
The first step is the transformation from the harvested cotton into yarn. Primarily, this takes place in the textile stronghold Tiruppur, which is situated in the South Indian state Tamil Nadu. There, cotton from all over India, as well as abroad, is collected and transformed into seemingly endless lengths of cloth. Once spun, it is therefore impossible to trace the cotton back to its origin and determine the conditions under which it was cultivated and the kinds of chemicals used in the production. Since we cannot ourselves reconstruct where and how our cotton is grown, we use the GOTS certificate. This way we can ensure that our cotton farmers receive a fair price and that no environmentally damaging chemicals have been used on the cotton fields.
We are continuously striving to increase the share of GOTS certified cotton yarn. Additionally, we are establishing new supply chains between Aura Herabal Wear - oldest partner that works exclusively with certified yarn - and the smaller weaving mills we work with. Before, these weaving mills had no access to fairly and ecologically produced yarn but this cooperation now enables them shift from regularly produced to certified yarn on a long-term basis. This way, we aim to build up fair trading structures.
From yarn to cloth
But how is a seemingly endless ball of yarn turned into a piece of cloth? There are two ways: knitting or weaving and subsequently, there is knitted, as well as woven fabric. Knitted fabric is known for its chunky pattern and its elasticity, while woven fabric has a chequered pattern and is not elastic, unless it contains elastane. Since 2016, we have only worked with hand-woven fabrics that are 100% cotton, and therefore not elastic.
We know all our textile manufacturers personally. We met them on many journeys through India, drank countless teas with them, collected fabric samples and developed designs together. We could therefore convince ourselves not only of the fabric’s quality but also of the local working conditions. This way, we ensure that our money does not go to large corporations or middle men but straight to the weavers themselves.
At this point, we would like to introduce each of our textile manufacturers in more detail:
AURA HERBAL WEAR
AURA HERBAL WEAR has been our partner for many years and is without doubt a pioneer for sustainability in India. The company is GOTS-certified and only works with organic cotton. They have also made significant contributions to the further development of natural dyeing processes. They only use natural colours, made from marigolds, onions or pomegranates and the like. Subsequently, their dyes have no negative impact on the environment and our health. Our beautiful block print fabrics are produced by AURA HERBAL WEAR, using traditional techniques.
Additionally, Aura is a very reliable partner in sustainable yarn production and in the future, they will provide our partner Kanti, and the cooperative Dastkar Andhra with certified yarn.
Similar to Dastar Andrah, MORAL FIBRE is a social enterprise, committed to ecological and social sustainability. Through its collaboration with different cooperatives, MORAL FIBRE aims to sustain small yarn producers’ livelihoods, which are threatened by poverty.
DASTKAR ANDHRA is an organisation comprised of 22 cooperatives from Andrah Pradesh. Often, cooperatives by themselves lack access to the national market, as they can barely compete with the lower prices of the larger producers. DASTKAR ANDHRA represents the small producers in India and now, in cooperation with us, also abroad. The cooperatives set the prices for their fabric, Dastkar merely takes the orders - like ours for example. DASTKAR ANDHRA mainly produces for the Indian market, so the fairly expensive GOTS certification would be no added value for the organisation. However, since we are completely convinced by their approach and way of working, and because we would like to support traditional weaving families, we thought of a solution: We are currently building up cooperation between Aura Herbal Wear and DASTKAR ANDHRA, so that the cooperatives can use GOTS-certified organic yarn for the production of our clothes in the future. Then, the yarn is dyed without azo colours to avoid hazardous health effects, before it is woven into beautiful cloths, using traditional handicrafts, which gives it its unique and shimmering structure.
VANKAR KANTILAL SAMAT
In Sarli, which is located close to Bhuj within the region Kutch, we have been working together with KANTI and his family since 2015. Following a common custom in this area KANTI is part of a local cooperation of other weaving families from the village which allows them to produce fabrics together. We fell in love with their traditional way of working, the familiar setting and their gorgeous cloth. KANTI’s fabrics are made from ordinary cotton, but we are currently preparing a cooperation between him and Aura Herbal Wear which will enable us to soon offer certified organic and fair yarn. Originally, the weavers in Kutch tended to work much more with wool than with cotton. Every weaver was personally linked to a Rabari family who would supply yarn from sheep and goat wool. Nowadays, animal husbandry is still very common within the area and the whole wool is derived from locally reared sheep. We started using wool for our production in fall 2017 for the first time.
Vankar Kantilal Samat │ P.O. Sarli │ Ta. Bhuj – Kutch │ 370 485 Gujarat
BAGRU TEXTILES is a block-print company based in Bagru, a small suburb of Jaipur in northern India. Walking through the residential quarter, one sees giant lengths of patterned fabrics hanging in the sun to dry on most the flat rooftops. Many Chhippa (printer) families, who traditionally dye and print fabrics, live here. First, using special iron tools, delicate patterns are cut into woodblocks. With these "blocks" – some the size of a finger, others as big as a plate – lengths of fabric are printed with impressive precision and without any gaps. BAGRU TEXTILES work together with many of the inhabitants of this area, who largely conduct their work from their homes. The business attaches a lot of importance to fair wages and invests part of its profits in community health and education programs.
Chhipon Ka Mohalla │ Laxminarayan Krishi Farm │ Bagru │ 303007 Rajasthan
P.A.C.E.S. stands for Production of Artisanal Crafts for Empowerment of Society. Situated in Ranchi (Jharkhand, North-West-India), the fair-trade workplace’s mission is to employ and train underprivileged women. In Jharkhand thousands of women and girls are trafficked each year. By offering them a decent job, PACES aims to fight these structures often leading women and girls into situations of abuse and extreme poverty. Not yet enough, PACES further invests all its profits in The Jaan foundation. An Indian trust that supports child domestic workers and other vulnerable children through shelter and care, education, skills development, advocacy on child rights, promotion of the right to participation and action against trafficking. We are more than convinced by Paces’ approach and love their beautiful, handcrafted fabrics that allow us to develop a whole new approach in our design.
We are working with 7 WEAVES since summer 2017. From them we purchase fabrics which are made from so-called peace-silk. What is special about this silk, is that it is produced without harming the lives and habitat of the silkworms. Unlike in conventional productions, for which the pupae in their cocoons are boiled in water and killed, the moth is leaving its “home” naturally, before the cocoons are further processed. The non-violent silk production has a long tradition in the villages around Guwahati (Assam). There the cocoons are degummed in a natural lye, made from the wood of the banana tree, and afterwards spun by hand to a silk yarn. Subsequently hundreds of meters of yarn are dyed with natural materials, such as the leaves of the Mehndi bush, pomegranate or turmeric and afterwards woven to meters of fabric at handlooms, which almost every villager has at home. Due to the special kind of silk “Eri” and as everything in the process is handcrafted the fabrics have a very special structure which is quite unusual for the silk we know. Nevertheless, the fabric keeps its promises. Due to its thermal properties - it keeps you warm in winters and cool in summers – it is perfectly well suited for all kinds of clothes.
7WEAVES SOCIAL │ 6 Dr.B.K.Kakoty Road │ Ulubari │ Guwahati │ Assam
is a small Indian fashion label based in Hyderabad, which champions local Ikat artisans. Translate’s mission is to revive this traditional craft, in order to create more awareness for this beautiful weaving technique. What makes Ikat weaving special is that the yarn is dyed in sections before weaving takes place. Generally, the bundled yarn is tightly tied in sections before being submerged in dye. Later during the weaving process geometric patterns appear due to the alignment of the dyed sections across the entire fabric. The appearance of these patterns reveals the depth of skill and mathematics behind the technique. Ikat fabrics are produced around the world, known by various names such as ‘Kasuri’ in Japan, used for fine Kimonos, while the technique can also be found across Africa and Latin America. Translate was founded in 2010 by Vinita and Vika Passary, and both founders also produce their own clothing and accessories. We happened across them by pure chance, but were so taken with their beautifully soft patterned fabrics, that the weaving team of Translate are now producing fabrics for us too. The company invests enormous amounts of energy into textile design and constantly creates new and exciting weaves, which can be found gracing our online shop with their presence.
Store Anonym │ Road No. 92 │ Jubilee Hills │ Hyderabad │ Telangana
Handcarft in the
In our two sewing workshops in the South Indian towns Chittapur and Londa (both located in Karnataka) sixteen seamstresses cut fabrics, embroider them manually and, with great care, put them together into our finished products.
At least once a year we travel to India to introduce new sewing patterns. The women then form small teams of experts who learn the new patterns with great curiosity, in order to pass that knowledge on to their colleagues later. The rest of the year, the Indian team works independently. In consultation with us, they take care of follow-up orders of cloths and the shipping to Germany.
Working hours are set according to the women’s family duties: The working day starts at 10 am, after they have dropped off their children at schools, and ends at 5 pm, so that they can pick them up. In regular intervals, health-checks, seminars on women’s and labour rights, and English language courses are provided. Moreover, we give our seamstresses the opportunity to take out interest-free and subsidised (25%) loans for health or education issues. This year, four women have already taken out loans to replace their old, very health hazardous woodstoves with new gas cookers. They set the repayment schedule themselves, so they will not get into financial troubles.
Our clothes on
a journey to you
Made and packed in India and then shipped to Germany, our team in Berlin is always excited to receive the parcels (apart from having to wait for hours at customs). Our team members at Okerstrasse keep Jyoti alive with their good spirits, enthusiasm and conviction. In a small co-working space in Neukölln, our homepage is looked after, our orders are carefully wrapped and packed, and ideas for new clothes come into being. Mostly though, we are working here day by day to come closer to our goal of a more just textile industry. Step by step.