The Heritage Shirt
Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan. Home to 6.6 milion people, it is a popular tourist destination with a strong tradition in textiles – above all, block printing.
- Made of 100% chemical free, GOTS certified organic Indian-grown cotton
- Accents are block printed traditionally by hand
- Mother of pearl buttons, buttoned side vents and tabbed sleeves
- Made ethically and fair-trade certified
Shari Keller is an American who has found her second home in India. She holds a PhD in anthropology and, as Fulbright scholar, she undertook research in the slums of Hyderabad for a year. In short, she has direct and extensive experience of the difficult reality of the destitute in the country she first visited in 1975.
It is very telling, therefore, that Shari has chosen to found a clothing social enterprise in Jaipur, as a way to make a living and contribute to the community. Entering Mehera Shaw’s facilities, the collegial atmosphere quickly denotes this company’s true socially conscious culture – a lingering feeling that goes over and above her Fairtrade certification hung on the office wall. In fact, the staff, hired regardless of caste and economic background, are Shari’s extended family.
The workers here have no daily production quotas – which in any case are often unrealistic and force workers in other companies to work consistently overtime without due compensation. “Sure you lose some efficiency, but you gain so much more”, says Shari. Friendships based in understanding and respect, in fact. The lack of quotas also mitigates production stress. Not only this is better for the welfare of the workers, but also it results in garments of a higher quality. “I can take the time to pour care into my work”, says tailor Puran. Mehera Shaw’s garments are of the upmost quality, and a great contribution to The Fabric of Humanity’s offering.
We spent a week in and around Mehera Shaw’s facilities, and learned about every step in their production cycle. Arvind is the master dyer. He is responsible for meters and meters of colourful GOTS certified organic fabric hang drying against the background of the blue sky. Mehera Shaw uses traditional block printing, where blocks of wood are hand carved and used to stamp patterns in the fabrics. Ghanshyam is the master block printer (forth generation, no less!) and has great pride in his heritage and trade. “I enjoy intricate patterns, and would love for the world to appreciate what we do”, says Ghanshyam.
Ramu cuts the fabrics, getting them ready for stitching, as sewing is called here. He is proud that his work is putting his children through university, a feeling also shared by Meena, who heads quality control in the room next door. Many people here are extremely excited to offer their children greater opportunities than they had for themselves – something we all seem to share as humans. The significance of this opportunity hits us over the head as we step out of Mehera Shaw and compare it to the little chances at hand for people living in the street.
India is a particular place. Most people say that either you love it or you hate it. For the first-time Western traveller, it is difficult to assimilate the misery of families living under bridges in cardboard boxes and seeing destitute children eat out of the garbage while life, overcrowded and drowned in the noise of seemingly chaotic traffic, goes on all around.
Jaipur is no different in that respect. Known as the Pink City of India, it is well-known to foreigners as it is home to the Amber Fort and Hawa Mahal among its many sights – all part of the golden triangle tourist route that also includes Delhi and Agra.
Rajasthan is home to a strong heritage in artisan industry such as jewelry and textiles. In the garment industry, it is particularly known for its traditional block printing. Carvers repeatedly hammer nails as chisels on a block of wood, slowly creating intricate patterns that can take up to two days of labour to complete. These are then charged with garment dye and carefully placed on extended fabrics to create Rajasthani traditionally artisan fabrics. The whole process is part of our human heritage to be preserved.
Growth, however, is in tourism. It provides opportunities to individuals and families from elsewhere in the Rajasthani region and is a big draw for internal migration – adults and children who upon arriving to Jaipur typically settle by under the bridges around the train station. There is a clear need to provide opportunities to disadvantaged individuals and families, regardless of background and caste.
Between 10 and 20% of the retail price is a donation. By purchasing this product, you help crowdfund and make the project you pick real.
The sheer size of Jairpur and the magnitude of the need becomes a challenge when delivering aid. Our initial projects are simple and concentrate on empowering people to better take care of their own needs.
Bicycle for education
A small action that goes a long way in girls' education
Rajasthan is in a desert. A handful of cities like Jaipur, where your item was made, act like magnets to those escaping poverty in desparate measures, often arriving without means and settling in cardboard boxes under bridges. Our community projects here also seek to alleviate one of the first consequences of life in the Rajasthani Thar desert: a girl’s education.
Girls are typically responsible for fletching water for their households. The walks, often for several hours, take away girls’ opportunities to go to school.
The Fabric is partnering with Gravis, a local and trusted non-profit, to provide bicycles to girls at risk of missing out on their education as a consequence. A bicycle is not only a source of playful pride, but it also allows a girl to have enough time to go look for water and go to school.
The Fabric will coordinate with Gravis to bring you the story of the selected girls once their bicycles are delivered.
Women's Upcycling Project
Contribute to creating sustainable livelihoods for disadvantaged women around Jaipur
The Fabric teamed up with Mehera Shaw, an ethical garment manufacturer in Jaipur, to make your garment. Mehera Shaw is run by Shari Keller, who has been an advocate for the poor and destitute in the country since her days as a Fulbright PhD researcher.
Mehera Shaw's sister organization and non-profit, Meher Road, runs an Artisan Upcycling Project that uses scraps from the textile industry to give these materials a second life as toys, housewares and accessories. All items are made by hand by disadvantaged women in rural areas and slums around Jaipur. The goal is to cause the creation of small cooperatives owned by the artisan women themselves and help them find an avenue to market their own commercially viable products.
Your donation will be used by Meher Road to pay for non-textile supplies to run their project. We will work with Shari and team to bring you the developing story of the women involved and the opportunity the artisan project brings to their life.