Mystery of the missing capes

Mystery of the missing capes

Last week, a bag with 35 KARIGAR Capes went missing on a bus from Ukhimat to Dehradun.

What happens next is a series of nail-biting events.

Here’s what we know: at 11am, the bag with the woven Capes was packed and loaded on a state bus that regularly takes commuters down the winding, mountainous route. At the end of its typical 7-hour journey, our products are picked up from the bus station and passed on to our tailoring teams, who add their finishing touches with armholes, washing and tagging.

When we reached the bus stop to claim our goods, we discovered that our duffel bag was probably taken by an army jawan (soldier), who mistook the bag of 35 colourful capes for his dirty clothes. Possible, because our bag was made from Army camouflage fabric, similar to the bags that troops carry. This bus route is also a common one for troops, who travel to their barracks and back.

But this soldier had got off much earlier, his friend said, and taken another bus to his home in Uttarkashi.

Yes, he did come home, his mother confirmed when we finally tracked him down. He had indeed picked up the wrong bag, she said. Now he’s on duty in Jammu and has taken the bag with him.

As we write this, we are heaving a sigh of relief as the travelling Capes are being collected 509km from their original destination. They will soon be put on the commuter bus for Dehradun town, where Hari will be waiting to pick them up.

You’re probably thinking, why a commuter bus in the first place? As a young brand that’s ever-conscious of its eco-footprint, we are encouraged when we realise the positive impact of such decisions, no matter how small.

Every day, multiple times a day, there are commuter buses that depart from the bus stop not far from our weaving centres. Typically, a petrol-fuelled van that travels 10 to 12 km (or 6.5 to 7 miles) adds 1 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the environment. If we wish to transport our products every single time from our weaving centres to our fulfilment centres, we would add an extra 10kg of CO2 to our carbon footprint.

By using a bus that will make the journey anyway, we might increase the risk of our bags going missing, but what we get is a reduced environmental impact.

Here’s how we see it: either way, this story has a happy ending.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Marloes van Doorn

It's buzzing at this unit

It's buzzing at this unit

A brand new Instagram fan, Anjali is busy figuring out this social media channel with the curiosity of a child and with the help of her younger brother Ashish. “Maine aapka post dekha” (I saw your post), says KARIGAR’s tailor, excitedly. An Insta Story where she’s the star, bent over the sewing machine in complete silence, except for a steady whirring while the armholes of the KARIGAR Cape are taking shape. The caption reads, ‘Do not disturb’. “Ashish ne mujhe Instagram pe dikhaya” (Ashish showed it to me on Instagram), says Anjali as she hospitably brings out of tray of cookies, savoury snacks and drinks.
Ashish is Anjali’s younger brother who is working as her apprentice. Cutting and sewing are skills he’s developing, under the guidance of his sister and alongside his passion of photography. The excitement at being featured on KARIGAR’s social media is palpable at this tailoring unit in Dehradun, a small but buzzing Indian city at the foothills of the Himalayas. Anjali and her young team pose effortlessly for the camera while doing what they are best at -- handcrafting the Cape’s armholes. A task that she admits initially looked easy, but is challenging to master. “It’s only when I started to do it I realised how many steps were involved,” she confesses.   
Back in 2015 when we started working with Anjali, she was on her own. A tailor by day and a student by night, she single-handedly worked on KARIGAR’s orders. Today, the team has expanded to include Komal, Kavita, Bharti, Neha and Ashish, each one handling a different part of the armhole crafting process. Anjali has graduated from college and now focusses all her efforts into KARIGAR. “This year has been very different to last year. Women come to me all the time asking for work and we feel encouraged to grow our business along with you,” she admits, looking proudly at her newly renovated work space and at the team behind the sewing machines.
There’s no time to take on any other tailoring orders. But she doesn’t mind. “My older clients come to me and ask me to make them a Cape, but I refuse. I tell them to go to your website and order,” she laughs, adjusting her workspace because it’s now time for another Insta Story.
This time she begins in English, “Hi, I am Anjali….”
Text and Photo: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal



Are you sitting next to someone right now? Great. Now here’s what we want you to do. Check what’s written on the cloth tag of the shirt or dress they’re wearing. Did you see it? The tag that says ‘Made in….’?

This week, the Fashion Revolution Week kicks off world over. Over the last few years a rising tribe of conscious consumers have been asking brands, who made their clothes? Back until 2013, people didn’t know at what cost their clothing was being manufactured. But when the Rana Plaza building collapse killed more than 1,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh, people became aware of the perils of fast fashion and the impact it had on human lives.

As a fashion brand that wants to pull the curtains between the makers and wearers, we believe in the power of asking ‘who made your clothes’. People have used fashion revolution week to challenge top notch brands, many of whom still don’t have the answer to the question, ‘#whomademyclothes’? But there are many brands, like ours, that have insights into their supply chain and are happy to share images of their artisans or factory workers to empower this growing movement.

It’s a question that everyone’s asking and rightly so. Turn your garments inside out and the tag always tells you where it was made. From Bangladesh to Vietnam, the hangtags tell you about where your product was stitched into a final garment. But here’s what it doesn’t tell you: who made the cloth itself? Where was the material created and under what circumstances? What happens at the beginning of this entire making process? Where did the cotton that your shirt was made from grow? Who dyed the yarn? And what was the impact on all those people and the environment before the garment was stitched? Today these questions are hardly ever asked. But we believe that it’s time to go back to the true origins of your garment, starting from the source.

When we buy a piece of clothing, we are becoming part of a chain of events that have a far reaching impact on people and the environment. A typical clothing supply chain links the source of raw materials to the place where they are processed and turned into cloth, to the factories or units that make garments out of them and onto a network of distribution to reach the final customer (moving on to what happens after your garment is thrown away and to the people who recycle them – but let’s leave that for another time.)

While we are all asking for a fashion revolution, the question of ‘who made my clothes’ is limited to the stitching and sewing industry alone. It looks at the people who turn that material into clothes or garments. What we see on our garment hangtags addresses only one part of the production chain. When will the time come to start asking the bigger question, ‘Who made our cloth?’ or maybe even, ‘Who made the yarn’? because that is really where the story of your garment begins.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Marloes van Doorn