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Natural and timeless

Natural and timeless

She’s stylish. She’s smart. She’s silver.

And her name is Jeanine de Groot. To be honest, we never asked her how old she is. Because her age didn’t really matter. We just loved how she carried herself and effortlessly oozed confidence. It made us (silently) sigh and say, “I want to age this way”.

When we first spotted her, we had already been looking for a more mature model for our first attempt at visual branding. Why a mature model with silver hair, you may ask? To us ageing gracefully signified a choice. It hinted at timelessness. And just like we want to offer people a choice with our sustainable, handcrafted wraps, we thought a graceful, older model could show that you can choose to be natural and age with beauty and style.

World over, the fashion industry has slowly but surely been embracing the silver shopper in its marketing and communication. Just this week, 73-year-old Lauren Hutton was shown as one of Calvin Klein’s underwear models for their upcoming Spring Summer collection. Last year, 60-year-old Gillean McLeod modelled swimwear for H&M and this year 63-year-old Lyn Slater became the face for Mango’s ‘A story of uniqueness’ campaign. Slater, started her blog/magazine Accidental Icon for, “Women (like me) who are not famous or celebrities but are smart, creative, fashion forward, fit, thoughtful, engaged, related and most importantly clear and comfortable with who they are.” And her definition of real women is something we at Karigar identify with. 

With modelling agencies that only sign up people older than 45, and age no longer being a barrier to enter America’s Next Top Model Fashion, world over how old you are is becoming something to be flaunted! Fashion icon Iris Apfel summed it up perfectly: “I don’t see anything so wrong with a wrinkle. It’s kind of a badge of courage.”

 

Stylish, sustainable and multi-functional

Stylish, sustainable and multi-functional

It started with a blanket. 

Karigar designer Jolijn Fiddelaers had wrapped herself in a handmade woollen throw from our first Home collection when she thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could also wear this outside? She wanted to extend that warm, ‘gezellig’, cosy feeling outside her home and with that, the journey of the Karigar Cape began.

Karigar prides itself in creating wearable fashion textiles that are handcrafted using natural materials. When we defined the areas in which we could be sustainable, design –  a crucial element of our brand – came to mind. With the clever use of design, we extended our philosophy of sustainability to the function of our products and created in effect something transformational -- a blanket that also became a stylish poncho, a hoodie, a jacket or even a dress!

The multi-functional Cape can be worn in 17 different ways (and possibly more if you are willing to get creative). So instead of using one product for one season, our Cape offers the wearer a product that’s made to last, extending the life-cycle of the garment and encouraging them to do more with less. The use of colour, natural materials, weaving pattern, free-size armholes – all contribute to make the Karigar Cape playful, smart and sustainable.

We’ve had many reactions to the Cape, ranging from ‘fascinating’ and ‘prachtig’ (wonderful) to people asking us curiously how the same product can become both long and short. But the one that always leaves us smiling is when people say, ‘oh, that’s like a blanket’!

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal

 

Creating connected communities

Creating connected communities

A surprise visitor was waiting for us the first time we went into the Himalayan mountains to meet our artisans face-to-face. Until then, much of our daily interaction had been over the telephone.

Sitting beside his mother at the loom, was a young boy not older than 10, waiting expectantly to see the 'foreigners' who had come all the way from 'America'. To him, anything outside of India was America. Even Amsterdam. The young man waited in anticipation. That's when we arrived- two Indian women, as old as his mum and with exactly the same skin, hair and eye colour.

If our gender might have ever worked against us in other circumstances, this time it went in our favour. Most of the artisans that we work with to create our handmade products are women -- of all ages and skill levels. And despite the fact that they were terribly shy at first, these women opened up to us sharing the stories of how they started to weave after separation, after losing their husbands to the flood that devastated the region or after their sons left in search of work.

One of the biggest challenges rural India faces is the fact that its younger male population is moving to bigger metros in the hope of finding better employment. Often unable to find jobs they are qualified to do, they end up in jobs where they are exploited. Living away from family is never easy and if they can find opportunities closer to home, then that would help address this increasing problem of urban migration. 

 
Our karigars (artisans) in the mountains are mostly first generation. Silk rearing, spinning and weaving began as a project by the local government along with NGOs to prevent deforestation and to create jobs for villagers, particularly women, so that they are self-sustained. Villagers were taught how to work with the environment and to co-exist alongside nature. Over the years, the women have learnt how to spin yarn, weave and create textiles from locally available resources. More women and girls are being encouraged to come to work and be independent. And we hope to involve as many of them into our creation process as time goes by.

The World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report 2016 estimates it will take 170 years to achieve global gender parity in the workplace and in society. That's 170 years until companies and governments are equally led by men and women. And sadly, it will not happen in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my two girls, aged 2 and 5.

Today, out of all the karigars or artisans we work with, women account for more than 80%. So what is it that we do as a sustainable fashion brand that directly impacts lives and makes a difference?

Our return on investment is to see the women that we work with flourish at the work place, and re-invest what they earn into the betterment of their families. Studies have also shown that women invest 90% of their earnings back into their families, compared with 30% men.

By empowering women and giving them regular work, training them on international quality standards and new designs, we have watched them grow more independent. They feel proud that they are able to provide a better life and set an example to their children!

Creating contemporary fashion products by using their expertise and skills has been our way to connect with local rural artisans and craft groups to bring about this change. It is through design that we want to continue to contribute to building stronger, connected communities.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal

(This article was first published on Huffington Post). Read the article here

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