The COVID-19 Crisis in India & How It's Affecting Our Makers
Right now, India is the second-worst COVID-19 affected country worldwide and the situation has become dire. Cities all over the country are experiencing record-breaking surges, including a concerning new variant, and the healthcare system is becoming completely overwhelmed. As a result, at least 6 Indian states (that house many major cities) have imposed a second wave of lockdowns and night curfews. Why does this matter so much to Taylor Tall? Beyond the obvious humanitarian crisis, I have visited and worked in India for almost 10 years and I care so much about this country and the people who have supported my passions and endeavors immeasurably. I have met and worked alongside many talented men and women with families, passions, and dreams just like us, and they deserve our attention during this devastating time.
Tara Projects emergency food collection & distribution, and their health care center expanding care during Coronavirus Crisis in New Delhi.
Taylor Tall would not be what it is without the incredible Indian makers who contribute to our collection. Many of these artisans have dedicated their whole lives to studying and perfecting their crafts. India has a long and storied history in the textile and craft world. For example, Indian block printed cotton fabrics have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and early Indian handicrafts date back over 5000 years to the Indus Valley civilization.
Handicrafts are anything made & processed by hand, using hand tools. Craftspeople traditionally use these items to tell stories, preserve history & culture, celebrate religion & holidays, show off style, and for self expression. All over the world, artisans spend years, if not their whole life, learning and adapting their skills to master their craft. Styles and motifs evolve over the years, some remaining traditional while others are becoming modernized, influenced by current and global trends. The one thing that has stayed consistent is the skill and dedication these makers have and continue to pour into their work (by hand!).
Master Pattern Maker at Creative Handicrafts.
I am constantly inspired by the uniqueness of the Indian Textile Industry and the design going on within it. Oftentimes, the fabric inspires the garment, rather than vice versa, which is something I tend to do throughout my design process as well. When you look at Saris and other traditional Indian dress, you will see that the silhouette of the garment is specifically designed to show off the beauty and intricacy of the textile it is composed of, whether it be a handwoven design, embroidered accent, or intricate beading. Indian design tends to be the perfect marriage of form & function— comfort, durability, and ease of movement is a priority, but design and style are never compromised to achieve these things.
India is an amazing place to produce for all of the reasons mentioned above, but it is also a great place for emerging designers to kick-start their production. The handicrafts industry is perfectly suited to small and medium size production orders, and can be more sustainable than large scale production.
A handmade fabric from our upcoming Spring / Summer 2021 Collection.
As an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, I wanted to try and reduce two things:
- The risk we took on during the launch phase of our business
- The amount of waste that our business left behind
The first few years of a fashion business can be ripe for over-purchasing based on incorrect assumptions or brands stretching to meet fabric minimums. This can lead to crucial finances being tied up in inventory that isn’t best fit for your customers, or an entire collection all made out of the same fabric. While designing in India still requires meeting minimums for fabric and other materials, working in handmade processes allows for a lower entry point.
THE MAKERS BEHIND TAYLOR TALL
We want to highlight the makers behind Taylor Tall and the incredible work that they do. Our brand makes up just a small part of their overall production, which means there’s plenty of room for our business to grow into their capabilities. We’re so thankful for how much they’ve fostered our business in the first few years. WomenWeave and subsequently Karghewale are our main textile makers/suppliers, while Creative Handicrafts patterns, cuts, and sews our garments.
A WomenWeave artisan at work.
Women Weave & Karghewale
WomenWeave is a global nonprofit organization and fair trade weaving cooperative that assists handloom weavers in India to bring their fabrics to a wider market. The fabrics they offer are not only beautiful and comfortable, they help preserve the craft of handloom weaving that has been around for centuries.
Karghewale works with 150 young weaver entrepreneurs, most of whom are graduates of WomenWeave’s The Handloom School, across thirteen states in India. Their mission is to support the creators of their textiles, a talented community of young and aspiring weaving professionals , so that they can build robust businesses. They believe that weavers are equal partners in the business, not mere wage workers who will weave the said design and be paid per meter. This gives them the leverage to circumvent the age-old impediments of commission agents in the value chain, and reach out to national and international markets directly.
One of the weavers of Karghewale spinning yarn for one of our Spring fabrics.
Creative Handicrafts is a social enterprise based in Mumbai, India with the mission to empower disadvantaged women. They provide fair trade manufacturing for apparel, soft goods, and handicrafts for a range of clients, from startups to established apparel brands. They are certified as both a Fair Trade Guaranteed organization and a GOTS compliant organic apparel manufacturer.
Coo-operative members, learn professional skills in a variety of areas in garment manufacturing as well as food production for their local subscription delivery service, all in addition to joining the supportive community. The social work branch of Creative Handicrafts provides holistic services and education opportunities to support the health and well-being of its members, their families, and the surrounding community.
Taylor and Rosie, the Production Manager at Creative Handicrafts.
As a small collection, we have only been able to share a small percentage of what these makers are capable of. I look forward to sharing our Spring / Summer 2021 Collection very soon, featuring some brand new, beautiful, handmade fabrics, as well as 100% organic cotton DENIM!! We are so excited for you all to see the new pieces and get them in your hands, and we appreciate your patience!
In the meantime, we’d really appreciate your help in supporting our makers as well as all of the Indian people throughout this crisis. While sales and purchases of artisan goods will always create sustainability for the craft sector, this is a humanitarian crisis that needs financial aid during this extreme hardship. We need to step up and support those holding up their communities. I started a GoFundMe campaign one year ago and the situation is worse than when it began. All contributions will be donated across the craft organizations listed below - all of whom are close to home. If you’re able, we are asking for your help in spreading the word and for a donation.
To learn more about how the COVID-19 crisis in India is directly affecting textile artisans, check out this article from the New York Times.
Donations will be allocated to the following organzations:
I have spent a lot of time working alongside this organization and learning about their work in Rajasthan India. Member artisans specialize in tailoring, hand block printing, indigo-dyeing, hand embroidery and applique.
Creative Handicrafts, whom we have worked with and visited for many years.
A not for profit, WFTO Guaranteed Fair Trade Organization which produces, markets and exports Nepal’s crafts. Their organization represents the efforts of more than one thousand individual producers, fifty percent of whom are from remote and mountainous areas. I have been working with Mahaguthi for 9 years.
A craft and jewelry organization with extensive social work outreach in the local community. They are increasing efforts at their existing health center to serve those who need non-Covid related care and are turned away from hospitals. They are also expanding to turn other facilities of theirs into health care facilities. I have been working with them since 2012.
An organic, sustainable, and non-violent silk artisanal weaving unit is constructing a temporary hospital to care for their rural area.
If you’re not able to donate, please consider sharing with friends and family that might be able to help, and spreading awareness throughout your communities.
Founder & Creative Director of Taylor Tall
**PS for any fellow designers looking to work with handcraft techniques, feel free to reach out to me anytime firstname.lastname@example.org. Taylor continually looks to partner with others who would like to design products using artisanal processes.