Fresh faced and effervescent, Laura van Ree is a recent graduate of a Masters in Applied Ethics. While her natural looks appeal to us instantly, it’s also her choice of study that makes Laura the perfect Karigar (role) model.
During the recent Karigar Lookbook photo shoot, Laura shared how she focused on fashion during her course, as that is still an industry where ‘ethics’ is questioned on a regular basis – how businesses produce, the relationships between brands and garment factories and the impact of low consumer prices.
It was during our conversation that Laura asked how we as a brand collaborate with our karigars (artisans). She wanted to know more about them as individuals – if they like their work and how they feel about creating for people around the world.
This interview features weaver Parwa Devi (and our karigar Of The Year 2015). We told Parwa that people want to hear her story and asked if she would like to share it with them. “Haanji, kyu nahin.” (Yes, why not).
Tell us more about yourself. What’s your story?
Bataane ko kya hai? (What is there to tell?) I am a simple woman from a remote village. I got married when I was 18, and when I was 19 years old, Shivam (my son) was born.
You know how it is here up in the mountains. As women, we do a lot of work (all for the home), but don’t usually get an opportunity to work outside. This was also my story. But things changed after 2007, when my husband and I parted ways.
I moved out with my son and for a few years lived with my parents. I used to walk 4 km to get to work and the same to get back home. This made me tired, as you know that weaving is a labour intensive task. So to save myself the time and the walk, I decided to rent a small room near work where I now live with my son.
How did you get introduced to weaving?
One day I was buying vegetables in the market when I met my old friend Radha, who proudly announced that she was now a weaver. She was thrilled about her new job and encouraged me to think about joining too. She said that I would be more independent and would have a stable earning. Working as a farmer for nine years had not given me much financial support and so I thought, why not try my luck at weaving? Thanks to Radha, I am now enjoying my work as a weaver.
How do you feel when the stoles and capes that you have woven are worn by people abroad?
(Chuckles) Yes, you keep telling me and I feel very happy and proud when I hear it. I want to tell these women and men that sometimes there could be a small irregularity in their stoles or capes because I weave it by hand. Hope they don’t mind that….
How do you spend your free time?
(Laughs). I love to weave and knit. So in my free time I am either weaving or knitting! I love the people I work with at the weaving unit. They are family to me. I don’t find the need to make new friends.
What would you like from us at Karigar?
(Pauses). Please keep giving us more work and more orders. This keeps us busy and we can earn a steady living. I am very grateful that because of the volume of orders from Karigar I am able to provide my son with a good, solid education. I hope this will continue and I can invest not only in his education, but also in developing myself.
I will be coming in December to meet you. Anything that you would like me to get you from here?
Hmmm. Thank you for thinking about me, but I have everything I need.
(On pressing more, she opens up). I have heard that women abroad use perfume. I would like to try it out too. Can you please bring me a small bottle of perfume?
Text: Sindhu Holla
Artisan pictures: Marloes van Doorn
Photograph of Laura van Ree: Karen Kikkert