The world’s second most populous nation, with more than 1.2 billion people, is a country of extremes. India’s deep, rich artistic heritage stands in stark contrast to rampant malnutrition, lack of access to health care, shocking human rights violations, and overwhelming poverty despite a fast-growing economy.
According to the last census in 2011, 75% of India’s households earn less than $78 per month.
As newly industrialized India continues to come to terms with its present condition, small artisan-driven businesses are showing us the way forward. They’re proving it’s possible to preserve important aspects of the country’s vibrant traditions and craft techniques by bringing them to market on a global scale, under the very definition of fair trade standards, and thereby helping to bring people out of poverty and deprivation.
These artisan-crafted products are empowering impoverished and disenfranchised makers.
This edit of artisan-made products reflects our love of, and compassion for, multifarious Mother India. Each section below highlights a craft sector with talent honed over generations, from metal-working to textiles to paper-making to block printing. Enjoy your purchase knowing it will create a ripple effect with positive social impact on families and even entire indigenous communities.
While many women artisans in India are under-educated and illiterate, they are highly skilled in craft techniques passed down from generation to generation. The sale of these beautifully made, authentic caftans – which may be worn as beach cover-ups, home loungewear or light summer dresses – help them to utilize their existing skill set to provide for their families
Apparel and accessories manufacturing in India has had a disastrous impact on the environment, with fabric dyeing and leather tanning yielding great quantities of toxic waste. These handwoven sandals are made from leather treated with a unique vegetable tanning process using the bark of the babul tree and the myrobalan nut, common in ayurvedic medicine – a much gentler and safer approach.
India has been known for its gorgeous textiles since the pre-industrial era, when spices and textiles were its main commodities in trade with European companies.
Today’s textiles vary widely in quality and provenance. Steer clear of mass-produced versions made from low-quality materials and chemical dyes and opt, instead, for beautiful examples of luxury craftwork, designed from locally sourced cotton fiber and silk and made with natural dyes from indigenous plants and minerals. Made to last, these classic scarves are a soulful yet modern style statement.
Indigenous Indian artisans, like so many craftsmen and women around the globe who are living off the grid, are struggling to preserve craft heritage and sell small batch goods in the new technology-driven economy. By making artisanal jewelry – like these striking brass and horn items featuring semi-precious stones – available via a centralized and easily accessible platform, our partners are helping to ensure that traditionally made wares are easier for customers to discover in the global marketplace.
India is famous for its hand block printed fabrics, in a wide range of designs and colors. Our examples of this traditional technique are a master class in handicraft. Each textile starts as organic cotton thread that is hand-dyed, spun and woven. Meanwhile, wood blocks are individually carved by hand to create graphic prints and intricate patterns. Artisans then meticulously block print using brilliantly colored natural vegetable dyes, before leaving the finished materials out to dry in the sun and constructing them into covetable bags and storage pots.
Made on printing presses in Northern India, these exceptional handmade and recycled paper goods are created entirely from paper and cotton waste rescued from the textile industry. From cotton rags to jeans to newspapers, old materials find new life in the hands of skilled female workers whose employment ensures a sustainable living wage for them and their families.
Fair trade partnerships have a significant impact in a region of far-flung communities that often lack vital resources. From utilitarian linens to decorative jute wall hangings, these home goods are made in partnership with skilled men and women in remote villages and an insistence on Fair Trade ethics and standards. The result: luxurious hand-worked creations that bring good wages to artisans in India and neighboring Bangladesh while bringing you a taste of their rich cultural heritage.