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Celebrating the Makers!

Celebrating the Makers!

An Indian name in a European city. What are the chances that people would say it right?  

KARIGAR, a unique combination of letters and vowels, has been pronounced in multiple ways by people living across multiple cities since we launched the brand in October 2014.

Some are a bit shy when they say KARIGAR, unsure if they are saying in right. Others say the name confidently and clearly like they know it means something important. But correct pronunciation aside, the name of our brand has always been a source of curiosity for most people.

By choosing this typical Indian name for our sustainable fashion brand, we knew that people who weren’t Indian would not always find it easy to say KARIGAR. To make it a name they would never forget, was our job. 

 ‘What does it mean?’, people almost always ask. And when they don’t, we tell them. Karigar literally means artisan or craftsman. A fitting name for a brand designs its products in Amsterdam and handcrafts them in rural India. 

In India, there are officially 7 million artisans (nearly 200 million, state the unofficial numbers) who handcraft products for local and international markets. For generations, these creators have worked with their innate skills to make beauty using their hands.

We admire how artisans work efficiently with resources available to them and are most sustainable, using only what they need. They are traditionalists, transformers, visionaries and masters. Yet, they are always in the background, quietly working behind the scenes.

As a young brand, we are privileged to have this chance and also the choice – to work with this pool of talent and create our exquisite fashion accessories by hand. KARIGAR to us is more than a word. It stands for everything we love and hope you will too. 

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Marloes van Doorn

 

How Deep is the Love for Green?

How Deep is the Love for Green?

During a rare weekend visit to possibly Amsterdam’s only mall, I passed by the Mango store. Right at the front of endless racks of clothes, stood a single mannequin wearing an asymmetrical off-white shirt and off-white pants. The tag that hung from the shirt read ‘Committed’.

Aha! I was finally face to face with Mango’s answer to Join Life by Zara, the Eco edition by ASOS and Conscious by H&M. Made from organic cotton, the Committed capsule promised environmental sustainability in the pieces produced. Naturally curious to see the rest of the collection, I was met with disappointment when I saw just these two pieces of clothing. The store manager obliged with a reasonable explanation. “Customers have been asking for sustainable clothing in our store but we first wanted to see the response of people to this collection before we have more designs.”

 If you’ve visited the Zara stores and asked for their Join Life collection, be prepared to find either few pieces or nothing from the collection. Clearly there is a growing demand for sustainability from consumers who want to know more about the conditions in which their clothes were made or buy clothing made from environmentally friendly materials. These same consumers want to buy less, buy well and make their clothes last. According to a Euromonitor International Survey, more than 14% of U.S. consumers looked for apparel and accessories made from natural materials in 2016, up from 12.9% in 2015. And millennials, more than any other age group, looked for apparel and accessories that were "sustainably produced.

 But here’s the big question: are sustainable collections merely a tick in the box for the fast fashion brands or can it become the core of their business philosophy? The Join Life collection makes up just 1.5% of Zara’s assortment and the Conscious Collection makes up 3.5% of H&M’s assortment. In time to come, will these become the norm, making up a bigger part of fashion collections world-wide (currently a whopping 150 billion new pieces of clothing are produced globally each year)? Or will they continue to be a tiny percentage of the total?

Or is it just possible that we as consumers will have to drive this shift? If in addition to buying less and making it last, can we champion a bigger change by expecting that brands ‘produce less but produce well’? By demanding a change in the system, we ourselves could contribute to a green revolution.

 Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal

 

 

Boxes with a past, and a future!

Boxes with a past, and a future!

The subtle fragrance of lavender is what you first notice. Then you gently pull out the crumpled golden tissue paper to reveal what lies below. Orange flower petals fall out, but you are too excited to brush them off the table. Because you’ve been waiting in eager anticipation for this moment. Along with the hand-written note saying thank you and the branded cardboard box, all the extras that go into the packaging of your online order are now defined as the ‘unboxing experience’. 

No matter how big or small you are as a brand, you cannot afford to ignore this key aspect of your business that touches and excites your customer in the most tangible way. From bloggers that share images of outstanding and memorable packaging, to folks posting YouTube videos about online orders that leave them saying ‘wow’, packaging and delivering of products can no longer be ordinary if brands wish to be noticed.

But in the enthusiasm to stand apart here’s the part most miss: for each package, retailers and delivery companies could use up to seven types of packaging material including paper waybills, envelopes, cartons, plastic bags, woven bags, tape and buffer materials like bubble wrap. And when we are done with unboxing our order, nearly all our packaging ends up in the trash.

Optimizing packaging for ecommerce may look quite different than design for traditional retail, due to the different demands of the respective distribution chains, says an Ameripen free whitepaper on Optimizing Packaging for an E-commerce World, published in January 2017. According to a study by Stanford University, we discard our own weight in packaging every 30-40 days, on average. Having recognised the role e-commerce plays in adding to waste generation, Zara now uses boxes with a past, where they deliver 56% of their online orders that are made in cartons that have been used 5 times before being recycled into cardboard.   

As sustainable brand that is now part of the digital b(r)andwagon, we too have been thinking about our packaging and the experience we want to offer our customers.  Do our customers expect the bells and whistles or are they willing to accept their handmade goods in a simple and reusable cloth bag, the more environmentally-friendly option? Should our packaging align with our philosophy of sustainability? And if yes, to what extent? Or should it be all about look and feel?

As we continue to explore an unboxing experience that we are comfortable with and excited about, we hope that our decisions make not just our customers but also our planet happy.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal